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UCOL’s social experiment

UCOL’s social experiment

UCOL is getting into the world of social networking to get through to - and create some fun for – the second wave of Gen Y.

One of the country’s most progressive polytechnics, UCOL is one of very few to venture into interactive online networking, with a bright spark idea that encourages young people to act out their career.

UCOL General Manager of Student Recruitment Mark Lockwood says it represents a big change and quite a radical departure from the way tertiary institutions communicate with students and potential students. “We’re regarding it very much as a social experiment: We want to see how Gen Y people respond to a really new concept like this.

“We believe we have something innovative and cool that will fit well into Gen Y social space,” he says.

Act Out Your Career at invites participants to make a video in which they (and their mates) act out a chosen - or perhaps just dreamed of - career. Mark says it can be any career: “Not just one you can study for at UCOL.”

The video then gets uploaded on to You Tube where it can be submitted for voting, by friends, families, surfers and lurkers, and other members of the public.

The prizes are worth winning. First prize is $3000 and there are also Apple iPhones for runners up. The first 25 people who register to make a video also get a free 2GB Flash drive.

Mark says New Zealand tertiary institutes have been relatively slow in trying to enter or even understand social networking. “If they do get into it, it’s usually just in the form of boring, unimaginative banner ads on Bebo and Facebook.”

But he says that has to change, given the importance and new habits of the target audience: “We want to reach and create some fun for people aged between 16-22 years who spend a huge amount of their time interacting socially with others on-line. This group makes up 43 per cent of our current students at UCOL.”

He says UCOL is interested in watching the effect of the viral component with something like Act Out Your Career. “Like all Gen Y phenomena, word spreads on line. Friends and family will be attracted to the site, especially if they’ve been involved in making the video.”

Mark says UCOL will monitor the progress of the site and the interest it attracts. “So it has extra value for us, as a form of marketing research,” he says.

Gen Y is a catchphrase for the cohort of individuals now aged between 13 and 28. There are 850,000 Gen Yers in New Zealand, representing 20 per cent of the population, and 25 per cent of them are in or have graduated from tertiary education.

Check out the experiment at


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