Four University of Virginia (UVA) undergraduates have created a website called The Collegepedia that aims to make the process of finding the latest reliable, college-specific news about COVID-19 at universities throughout the Commonwealth easier.
“[Journalists] have been working tirelessly to keep communities informed about their health and safety, but there is no single media outlet or aggregator that compiles all of these stories, searchable by community, in an easy to read and straight to the point format. So, we wanted to fill that void.” UVA senior Nik Popli, one of the website’s creators, told The Virginia Star.
“We wanted to provide that for college students, specifically [those] who grew up in an era of finding news on social or word of mouth, and that was the goal of Collegepedia,” Popli continued. “It’s designed specifically for college students and their loved ones to be better connected and more informed about the pandemic as well as other college issues and how it impacts them.”
The idea for the website originated from a capstone project for a class. But, the notion of an aggregation website really made sense after universities in Virginia began to experience varying coronavirus outbreaks earlier in the fall semester and the group found that such related news was being shared slowly, if at all, among college students, according to Devlyn Haviland, fellow UVA senior and website creator.
The group of students began working on the project back in August and officially launched the website in the beginning of October, UVA senior Faiza Khanbozai said.
Haviland said the website primarily features articles from the schools’ student newspapers to provide coverage that has first-hand information about the virus from the students, faculty and the administrations, and the feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
Along with the website, the group also made an Instagram account to help drive traffic and spread awareness, which has garnered over 650 followers so far.
“Our marketing strategy right now is utilizing social media networks to drive people to our website and trying to build a stronger presence on Instagram, and just keeping people informed,” Khanbozai told The Star.
Currently, the website covers news from six schools in Virginia: James Madison University, George Mason University, Virginia Tech, The College of William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University and UVA.
Nevertheless, the group has larger plans for Collegepedia down the line that stretch beyond Virginia and news on the pandemic.
“We’re hoping this can scale to all the major college towns in the United States and will not be limited to just related COVID-19 news,” Khanbozai said. “This pandemic will eventually pass and we’re hoping to use our platform as a way for people to look at anything that’s going on at these schools, whether that be social justice or admission rates.
“The market at least will be expanded to parents, community members, students, faculty and alumni.”
Popli added: “I think the end-all goal is to have a map on our website where any user can click on any college town in America and get the news going on in that [place]. That would be the ultimate goal.”
For the immediate future, however, the group said they were focused on outreach to students and faculty at other schools to author reflections to accompany other news on the website.
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