Building digital competencies in marketing students

Building digital competencies is important for all our students, and especially so for marketing (among many other disciplines). Marketing is becoming increasingly digital, and marketing programs need to update their curriculum in order to give students the skills necessary to respond to the changing industry (Rohm, Stefl, and Saint Clair 2019). The purpose of marketing education is to provide students with the skills and tools necessary to succeed as marketers, so it is essential that marketing programs adapt to the rapidly digitized marketing industry (Brennan 2012). An important component of offering students a valuable learning experience is to provide them opportunities to build their digital competencies to help them thrive in the digital world post-graduation. Students are increasingly required to manage and preserve data, to communicate digitally, to analyze and present data, to manage digital identities, and to make critical design and development decisions in a digital space (“Bryn Mawr Digital Competencies Framework” 2016). In order to keep marketing programs relevant, students must be given the opportunity to build these competencies while still in school.

I used my Consumer Behavior marketing class to provide students with three opportunities to build digital competencies. First, students completed two digital marketing certifications (HubSpot social media certification and Google Analytics beginner certification) that are highly regarded in the industry and often required for digital marketing positions. Research also shows that these certifications help with job placement and success in the position (Staton 2016). Not only did this assignment force students to build their resume and be more attractive candidates on the job market, but it also allowed me to flip the classroom for that unit and give them a project to apply the knowledge they learned from the certifications. Specifically, I gave students real social media and website data from a local nonprofit that they were able to analyze and come up with recommendations for. I was fortunate enough to have access to these data and permission to share them, but it could have easily been done with fabricated data too.

Second, students applied the material we learned in class to develop a website for a brand of their own creation. Students were given the option to develop a website for a personal brand to promote themselves on the job market, for a brand for a company they want to actually create in the future, or for a fictitious brand (e.g., a fake clothing store). The college offers the Knight Domains service to students, which gives them server space and resources so they can develop their own websites or applications. The Tech Bar offers consultation and training in WordPress and its applications for students so over the course of the semester, students updated their websites and created their brand. Students also wrote five blog posts over the course of the semester and posted them to their sites. The first blog post was an intention post, where they created three personal learning objectives for assignment as well as tactics for accomplishing those objectives. Students then wrote three biweekly blog posts where they were required to relate the course content to their experience with creating the website. Finally, they were required to write a reflection blog post, where they had to reflect on whether they accomplished their learning objectives described in the intention post. After the semester, I got qualitative and quantitative data that suggested that students felt that they gained digital competencies and they felt more confident in their ability to be digital marketers after they graduate. I’ve submitted a proposal to present this at the Marketing Educators’ Association conference, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to disseminate this and get more feedback on it in the spring.

Finally, students completed the Buzzfeed Challenge (Cowley 2017), where they were required to identify a target market, create a BuzzFeed article or quiz that appeals to that market, and reach that market using online promotion principles and targeted influencer outreach. Their grade was, in part, determined by how many views they got (they needed at least 1000 views for full credit) and so their success was solely determined by the quality of the decisions they made. The number of views varied wildly, with a range of a couple hundred to more than 90,000! Students responded very positively to this assignment as well, and several students specifically said they learned more about marketing by doing the assignment.

I was really happy with how these projects turned out. It really seemed like the students were really engaged with the assignments, and understood their importance in terms of portfolio and resume building. Even the students who weren’t as motivated as I would have liked are objectively more prepared for the job market than they were before the class started, so I love the idea of building digital competencies into the curriculum. I’m going to continue using these projects the next time I teach consumer behavior, and will add more opportunities for students to build digital competencies into my other classes. For example, I’m thinking about having my market research and/or my MBA class create a Facebook Fan Page so they’ll be able to analyze the relevant metrics and make decisions and changes using data that’s relevant to them. I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to talk about these initiatives with other faculty and staff, so I really appreciate #DigPINS for giving me the resources and motivation to do so. I probably wouldn’t have done as much or been as successful without yall!

(4) Comments

  1. Reid

    A strong articulation of the value of digital competencies, Miles! I appreciate the interesting and inventive assignments you described.

    1. Miles

      Thanks, Reid!

  2. Susan

    Miles, I really enjoyed how you set the foundation for your blog highlighting the research and reasons for changing your course to elevate learning. This was a huge undertaking and a real revamping of your syllabus. Thank you for allowing St. Norbert College’s Academic Technology team and Full Spectrum Learning to be a part of this transformation. Part of SNC’s vision is to fully prepare students for success in a complex world. Your initiatives have given students the opportunity to gain digital skills necessary for the field of marketing and beyond. Great job! If you were to change anything that you did during the course of the semester with this class, what would it be?

    1. Miles

      Thanks! I think I’m going to have to work out the logistics a bit better. I think I’m going to make the website a shorter assignment and only give them half the semester instead of the whole thing, so they don’t spread out the work too much and not retain as much. Strangely, I’m going to have to be a lot more strict with deadlines. I was very flexible given the nature of the assignments, which students didn’t like. Even though I never took points off for being late or changed a deadline to make it due sooner, students needed more structure. I’m looking forward to doing it again. Thanks for all your help!

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