01 October 2008

College Data on the Web: Unigo

The web is all about the long tail, and Unigo targets that vast area by asking the residents of the tail to submit the data. In short, college students profile their institutions and the web site serves up resulting narratives and ratings for reading by the public. The target audience: students, both those seeking new information and those eager to contribute information.

The site is still in beta and that was evident in the multiple attempts I had to make to log in. I'm glad I persisted over the site's launch week to visit several times and let the power of the young people sink in. The welcome message is to "find, review, and explore America's colleges."

Unigo describes itself as a "nationwide grassroots movement to get the truth out about college life" and it does provide opportunity for multiple truths, at least. I enjoyed reading a Brown first-year student's argument to a stereotype about her school; the articles throughout the site reflect a wide variety of voices. Blending social site features (My Unigo, My Profile, Friends) with content is ambitious but the enterprise has received good publicity in the mainstream press and enjoys backing by a private investor. CrunchBase data on Unigo explains the founder's background and lists current stats of 18 full-time editors, 300 on-campus reporters, and more than 15,000 student contributors to the community.

Putting the media to its best use: the videos. Some clips reside on the Unigo server and some are piped in from YouTube. Purpose varies. Princeton's coverage is dominated by student interviews (why I chose to come here...) whereas Texas Christian University videos are fewer in number but more diverse. There's a 2-minute video about TCU football (the purple is just as overwhelming on screen as it is in person, if you've ever walked the Fort Worth campus), several class projects on sustainability, and a remarkably conservative streaking incident (the streaker wore athletic shorts but astounded the crowd in the cafeteria, anyway).

The site uses the term rankings, but ratings is a better description of the stats. Some stats are institutional (percentage of applicants accepted/enrolled, etc.) and some are generated on the site. So, the TCU profile includes ratings (scale of 1 to 10) on such things as "Professors Accessible," along with the less noticed n for the survey data (37 on the day I visited that profile).

Ratings, comments, and videos can be sorted by most viewed, recently added, and most popular. Articles by editors and the editorial team address general topics, too, such as how to size a college and how to seek funding to college. Articles are rated although the numbers indicate most people merely view and don't vote (e.g., rating of 4 stars, rated by 1 user, viewed by 1,232 users).

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Email contact: bold[AT]marybold.com. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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