Colleges and universities across the country are picking up on a new trend: Vine. While the six-second looping media clip program may not have received much initial enthusiasm from the public, higher ed institutions are using the free program in innovative ways. The goal? To attract and involve more students and alumni within the online space.

By simply filming clips from a phone or iPod Touch, automatic uploading features make shooting and sharing short videos easy. In the past few months alone, Vine’s monthly active user base soared from 2% to nearly 8% of iPhone owners in the U.S. (The Android version was released just this month, so no data is yet available). Some suggest using Vine as an interview tool: Questions can be tweeted with six-second answers being recorded. And while many will see six seconds as limiting, can’t we say that’s how the 140-character limit on Twitter was to start as well? Users get accustomed to challenging parameters and figure out how to adapt their messages to reach a larger audience.

Dozens of schools have caught on to using the app for events, activities, alumni get-togethers, and more. The Stanford Engineering school showcased the Stanford Drone Games. The University of Florida showed off the moment their students graduated and cheered. And UCLA Health broadcast a six-second clip of a man undergoing a brain operation. In it, he’s playing guitar on the hospital bed. This short video from UCLA went Vine-viral, and it was no wonder. How better to show how brain surgery can be done on a conscious individual than with a memorable six-second clip?

 Vine has a reason for being loved by higher ed. Any chance to positively interact with students, alumni, or the public is helpful, but schools go a step further. They’re able to engage, attract a new audience, and draw attention to little-known places on campus, research projects, and much more. William Ward, a social media professor at Syracuse University, uses Vine in his own media classes. He has students create Vines while live tweeting big television events (like the Super Bowl or Oscars) to help experiment with real-time marketing. Professor Ward believes Vine could even make these short-form videos as popular as photo sharing is right now on Twitter.

Schools are using Vine specifically to improve the dialogue between students and teachers. Professors, for example, can improve this online communication by demonstrating concepts, show off artwork, or send a quick quiz hint to students. In fact, without the pressure of shooting film, downloading it, editing and captioning, and uploading, Vine takes video marketing to a whole new level.

Will Vine be successful in such a competitive, fast-paced social media world? The app was released just six months ago, so it may be too early to tell. But with an interested higher ed audience and millions taking advantage of the marketing and communication possibilities, Vine may just be here to stay.