Social Media for Higher Education: Ontario Veterinary College connects students and stakeholders through ‘The Externship Blog Project 2014’

Jane Dawkins    October 15, 2014

Organization name:  Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

Who they are:
As a founding college of the University of Guelph and one of the earliest established Veterinary Medical Colleges in North America, the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) is a world leader in veterinary health care, learning and research – for the health of all species, including our own.

Company Contact:
Jane Dawkins, OVC Marketing Communications Officer, Karen Mantel, OVC Marketing Communications Officer,  Dr. Elizabeth Arnold Stone, Dean, Ontario Veterinary College,

Web references:

Description of how social media is used for business performance:
Through the Externship Blog Project 2014 the Ontario Veterinary College leveraged social platforms to show future students, staff, faculty, alumni, government funding agencies and the community what goes into educating a student veterinarian and give the greater public insight into the broad range of areas of health veterinarians effect.

The veterinarian’s role in everyday lives goes far beyond the health and well-being of companion animals.  Veterinarians also make significant contributions in the agricultural field, food animal production, access to local food, food security and exports.

OVC students externships are required to take place in a mixed (large animal and companion animal) hospital to ensure student veterinarians are given exposure to and have the opportunity to explore the many areas of veterinary medicine.

“The Externship Course is a critical part of the student veterinarian’s training,” says Dr. Elizabeth Stone, OVC dean in an initial news release about the project. “OMAFRA recognize that this hands-on training with both food animals and companion animals is vital to DVM students. Not only do they have an opportunity to apply the skills they’ve learned, they’ll do so both in a clinical setting and on farms, allowing them to practice their diagnostic and problem-solving abilities in a real-world setting.”

While externships have been part of the curriculum for OVC’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students for over 30 years, but this year this was a first time launch for the Externship Blog Project.

A total of 120 student veterinarians take their externship each year,  this year five of those students volunteered to take part in the Externship Blog Project 2014 to expand their communications skills by developing a variety of materials to be posted weekly on the externship blog.  This included, writing, images, video/vlogging and vines and much more.

Samples from the Externship Blog Project:
“B” is for Biosecurity 
Operation Rocky

Jack finds a new home

Nothing beats newborn calves

The power of the human-animal bond

The project was an overall success, received in a wide range of media attention and recognition for its contribution to social media as a veterinary college.  See other resources for articles.

Lessons Learn:

      • Be sure to cross promote and integrate your social effort.
        OVC used the following vehicles and platforms to promote the project to a wide range of stakeholders and ultimately drive traffic to the blog. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, OVC blog, entitled the Bulletin,  and links and information to the online project in traditional and print media.
      • Content planning and management is key. When building a large project with multiple contributors  it is important to develop a posting schedule. In this project five students were involved– there was one post from one student per business day.
      • Created a theme. OVC gave the project a logo to give the project a mini-brand identity.
      • Set your audience’s expectations.  Leading into the project the OVC marketing team developed a series of “viral videos’ to create excitement around the project and set expectation for when new information would be available.  In this case it was a set time each workday.

        The Externship Trailer Video
        The Externship Project 2014 – Trailer 2
      • Know what the definition of ‘success’ is for your project and MEASURE it.  There are tons of free reporting  and organizational tools available online  such as google analytics,, and using Facebook Insights and YouTube analytics to track the success of a project.  In this particular case measuring engagement, such as sharing, comments and likes as well as traffic referred to the blog via social media networks was most important to the college.  During the first month of the project almost 10% of all traffic visiting the Ontario Veterinary College website was referred via social media links to the Externship Blog Project 2014.

Other resources:
Veterinary Practice News:  New social media project featuring DVM students blogging about their externships is a first for the more than 30-year-old OVC program
Snout School Blog: Ontario Veterinary College Teaches a Lesson in Content Creation
VMD: Technology:  Twitter for Veterinary Non-Tweeters
OVC Bulletin: Externships a ‘win-win’ for students and veterinary practices

Submitted by:
Jane Dawkins, Marketing Communications Officer, University of Guelph

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