I challenged my Electronic Media Programming students to learn about programming for the internet by doing it themselves.  The challenge I gave them even scared me a little:  Make a viral video.  In three weeks.  If they could get a million views, I’d give them an A+, no questions asked.

After a few days struggling to work as a team of 25, kicking around concepts, and trying to find common ground, they responded by putting together a video about Breast Cancer Awareness called Make It Pink.  In the video, they talked about how many of their families had been affected by the disease, and challenged students at other universities to help them out, turning April 27th, 2012 into Make It Pink Day.

The next ten days were an on-the-fly exercise in internet marketing, public relations, and teamwork.  40,000 YouTube viewers, 150,000 Facebook users, three local news features, two major newspaper articles, and a series of twitter retweets later, evidence of pink movements began streaming in from cities all over the country – and a few from as far as London and Australia.

As part of the on-campus festivities on the 27th, a large (pink) bus from the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Foundation pulled up on campus.  Representatives from the organization brought my students onto a bus for a discussion about breast cancer awareness, and the usefulness of awareness campaigns.  While we certainly hear a lot of back-and-forth on the issue, one message stuck with me – if all this pink had caused even one at-risk person to think about getting a mammogram, my students may have just saved a life.  And that’s something much bigger than an assignment on attracting YouTube viewers.

Sometimes, students go further than you could ever expect – and take you with them for the ride.

(Yes, they got the A.)