Colleges click the ‘like’ button on social media classes

Drury University students can earn three credits if they complete the new Social Media Certification Program.
Drury University students can earn three credits if they complete the new Social Media Certification Program.

From public relations in social media to the potential marketing power of “mommy bloggers,” colleges and universities are offering graduate-level certificates focusing on the business side of Twitter, Facebook, and a host of other sites that draw Americans from every demographic.

Social media courses have sprung up on college campuses as social media web sites—once seen as a virtual playground for bored college students—have become central to marketing campaigns, branding items, and communication with customers, group members, and alumni, for example.

Drury University in Springfield, Mo., announced this month that it would join a handful of schools nationwide offering social media certificates geared for graduate students and business professionals hoping to learn the latest in Facebook and Twitter-based marketing and how search engine optimization can bring more web users to a company’s web site.

Drury’s Social Media Certification Program will run from June 5-20 with 11-hour sessions on six of those days and shorter workshops during the rest of the two-week class. The certification also will be offered via webinar. Deltina Hay, author of A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimization, will run the web-based courses, according to the university’s announcement.

“Social media classes are a whole heck of a lot more than understanding how Facebook functions,” said Curt Gilstrap, director of Drury University’s social media certification program. “A while back, some people might have thought it’s just a fresh technology and it will be gone tomorrow … but I think most people know that’s not the case now.”

Drury’s social media curriculum will delve deeper than widely-known social networking outlets such as Facebook, Gilstrap said. Part of the course, he said, would examine “mommy bloggers,” or mothers who maintain online journals that often mention brand-name products and can be an ideal advertising platform.

“They have a following because they provide a sustained awareness of certain products,” Gilstrap said, adding that students will use case studies to examine real-life examples of social media marketing strategies that have and have not worked. “That can be very valuable to online marketers.”

The university’s certification program, which begins with a “boot camp” on social networking basics, also will include coursework on crowdsourcing and mashups. Crowdsourcing—farming out jobs to larger groups of people through open calls—has helped many businesses field hundreds or thousands of solutions from IT experts, for instance, once they’ve submitted a query to an online community.

Drury’s curriculum has sections on every aspect of social media; YouTube, wikis, webcasts, widgets, and podcasts among them.

Gilstrap said he expects about 30 students to enroll in the face-to-face social media program that starts next month, and 15 students are expected to take the web-based class. The traditional class will cost $1,800 per student, and the online course will be $2,000, he said.

The university requires a nonrefundable $25 deposit to hold a student’s seat. Students who complete the course will receive three hours of transferable graduate credit.

Small campuses and research universities alike have incorporated social media curriculum into certificate programs in recent years, including Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wis., the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J., and the University of California Irvine.

Saint Elizabeth’s Certificate in Social Media Management requires graduate-level students to pass five courses and earn 15 credits. The program’s courses include “Managing Information for Effective Decision Making,” “Ethical Issues in Management Leadership,” and “Social Media and Web 2.0 Management for Businesses and Organizations,” according to the college’s business school web site.

Madison Area Technical College’s social media certification web site says marketing professionals will become “social media guru[s]” by the time they finish classes in graphic design, customer service, journalism, visual communications, media design, and web design and development.

UC Irvine tailors its social media curriculum specifically for professionals in marketing, human resources, web intelligence, web design and development, business intelligence, investor relations, and fundraising, according to the program’s site. Students who complete nine credits will receive a “Social Media/Web 2.0 Specialized Studies Award,” the site says.


Drury University

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