What happens when a leading university uses Google+ to connect with the Australian Government? A watershed moment for political discourse in Australia, with Deakin University hosting a first-of-its-kind Hangout on Air with Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Over 21,000 people viewed the live stream, and cast over 100,000 votes on 2,000 questions for the nation's leader. In this study, we take a look at the impact of the "Hangout with the PM" and explore a true example of modern democracy and modern technology at work.

Goals

  • To raise the Deakin University profile both at home and abroad
  • To incorporate cutting-edge techniques into the Deakin curriculum

Approach

  • Deakin hosted a first-of-its-kind Google+ Hangout on Air with the Hon. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia
  • Prime Minister Gillard invited Australians to ask questions and join her for an hour-long conversation

Results

  • 2,058 questions posted and 109,290 votes for questions
  • 21,000 people viewed live video streams and 7,775 comments during the Hangout on Air
  • 3,500+ Google+ followers
Published
January 2012
Topics

Among Australia’s new generation of universities, award-winning Deakin University has a traditional focus on excellent teaching and research, plus a desire to seek new ways of developing and delivering courses. With an enrollment that includes 8,000 international students, Deakin wants to raise its profile both at home and abroad.

“Students rightly expect a premium learning experience that will prepare them for life and careers in a rapidly changing world,” says Andrea Turley, Deakin’s executive director of marketing. “Our challenge is to respond to these expectations by incorporating cutting-edge techniques in our curriculum.”

As part of the “Worldly” campaign, the university hosted a first-of-its-kind Google+ Hangout on Air with the Hon. Julia Gillard, prime minister of Australia.

“Hangout with the PM”

The university, the office of the country’s first female prime minister, and a leading media company all joined forces to create a watershed moment for political engagement in Australia with the innovative Hangout on Air.

Ms. Gillard invited Australians to ask questions and join her for an hour-long conversation. The Hangout with the PM was streamed live through Google+, YouTube, and the Deakin University website on July 21, 2012. An example of democracy in action, Australians submitted 100,000 votes on 2,000 questions to select the nine participants in the Hangout on Air.

An experience with modern democracy

Ms. Gillard addressed a wide variety of topics, from the political (“How do you explain your opposition to same-sex marriage?”) to the personal (“Are you happy?”). She responded to questions from the Hangout participants, as well as questions submitted via YouTube, Google+, and Twitter. Ms. Gillard applauded the Hangout format, commenting, “It’s modern democracy and modern technology at work.”

The unique Hangout on Air was an immediate nationwide hit, with 21,000 concurrent live streams to Deakin University’s YouTube channel – making it one of Australia’s most viewed Hangouts on Air to date. The debate sparked conversation and debate online, with more than 7,000 comments during the live stream. The event received nationwide coverage across broadcast, print, and online media. Within one week, Deakin also had the top education- related Google+ page in the country.

The Hangout on Air was an opportunity to provide a worldly experience. It enabled us to use a cutting-edge and far-reaching platform for our students and the community to engage with the Prime Minister.

Seeing the value in Google+ Hangouts

“The Hangout on Air was an opportunity to provide a worldly experience,” Turley says. “It enabled us to use a cutting-edge and far-reaching platform for our students and the community to engage with the prime minister, while using a new digital platform that aligns with the university’s strategic direction to drive the digital frontier.”

The university is planning similar high-profile events. Ms. Gillard, for her part, promised, “You’ll see me as prime minister for another Google Hangout in 2013.”