#12 – Dear Universities, Teach Internet Marketing

Hello, hello again, banditos of our humble cantina.  This is a double-shot week of the Saloon, and be expecting more guest posts from Saloon enthusiasts.  We’re forming like Voltron up in the Saloon.

United we stand at the Saloon, until the fourth to fifth scotch on the rocks is poured.  Then we wobble and sit.  Be on the lookout for more shots coming from our friends in the community.

Veni, vidi, vici, bitches.  Much like the military genius of the Three Amigos,

we have ingrained in the community of the people and have all surrounded.  There’s no escaping this.

Today, we are proud to welcome a guest post by Alex Morask.  I don’t need to introduce homeboy; he’s inquisitive and will grab your attention himself.  We were all impressed by his thoughts on teaching Internet marketing at universities.  Being a student, he can walk the talk, giving insight about what’s on the mind of younger practitioners eager to learn more.

He’s a sharp guy and great writer.  Dude’s coming out guns blazing.  Say hello to our younger friend.

 

For those of you who don’t know me, which I assume is almost everyone, I’m Alex Morask, a 21 year old college student studying advertising and marketing at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition, I’m an aspiring inbound marketer, and for the past two years I’ve been reading, theorizing and learning about this ever-evolving field as it has truly become a wonderful passion of mine.

I gained what online marketing knowledge I have now by routinely following an assortment of blogs, signing up for a lot of newsletters, pounding through all sorts of marketing Ebooks, pestering industry experts for advice (sorry Mr. Pulizzi), attending webinars and in person events and even taking online certification courses. Basically, if your company gates valuable marketing content behind lead gen forms, then I’m the annoying kid who downloads it as a completely unqualified lead.

What I have never done is taken a college course that has developed or amplified my skillset and understanding of internet marketing. This is not because I was scared of increasing my workload, or because I ever thought I was intellectually above these courses, it’s because they simply do not exist.

As all of you know, online marketing is experiencing tremendous and rapid growth. Hubspot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing declares, “The distribution of marketing budgets is shifting towards inbound channels and the difference between inbound and outbound marketing expenditures grew by 50% from 2011 to 2012”. The report goes on to state that 47% of the businesses surveyed planned on increasing their inbound marketing budgets in the coming year.

The Content Marketing Institute, in their 2012 B2B Content Marketing Research Report, stated that 9 out of 10 organizations market with content marketing and, on average, spend over a quarter of their entire marketing budget on this specific channel. Now, I know not all inbound/content marketing is done online, but I think it’s fair to say that the most important parts are.

I cited the statistics above as evidence of the increasing importance of holistic and strategic internet marketing, especially for B2B firms in competitive sectors. Yet, despite this growth, and the growth of online marketing’s various components such as content strategy, SEO, web analytics, PR, PPC and social media, I bet you’d be hard pressed to find an accredited university that teaches internet marketing (as a degree) on their campus. “But Alex,” someone might ask, “What about all of the online degrees available?”

The Problem With Online Degrees.

I’m well aware that you can earn an internet marketing degree through various online schools, sometimes even from accredited programs such as Full Sail. However, if you really think about how college selection works for recently graduated high-schoolers, how many of them have an online university in their college consideration set?  Better yet, how many of them do you think are unwaveringly sure of what they want to do in terms of their careers? My guess would be not many. And you can’t sign up for an online university without knowing exactly what you want to study, because online schools lack the general education requirements that brick and mortar universities have. This means that students don’t have those preliminary two years (freshman and sophomore year) to feel out what they like and don’t like while fulfilling their gen-ed requirements. Thus, a student like me who became infatuated with Internet Marketing halfway through my college career, has no options to choose from besides paying for additional, online schooling on top of an already exorbitant college tuition.

Colleges teaching internet marketing would allow the field to universally become an acceptable undergraduate degree, such as human resources or journalism is. It can be a discipline with a set itinerary and a list of course requirements that would further solidify standards for the field. Students can choose it, declare it and learn it from the ground up. They’ll be taught definitions, theories and strategies and have the chance to implement those strategies in a classroom of their peers, under the guidance of a trusted professional. Online schools that currently offer courses could be used as graduate or masters programs (Full Sail’s already is). And unaccredited, online certification courses, such as Market Motive or the Online Marketing Institute could be used to teach new practices as well as hold professionals up to an agreed upon industry standard. If this works for other disciplines, then why can’t it work for us?

Yes, the field is constantly changing. I understand that this presents a major challenge in the system I’m proposing. However, I feel like this problem can be overcome by allotting a certain of amount of class time to discussing the industry’s emerging trends. In addition, there’s always the blogs, Ebooks, webinars and other frequently updated resources to fall back on. As the expanding mass of online certification courses has shown; internet marketing will always be taught, no matter how frequently it changes. So if the subject is going to be taught, why not organize the teaching method using respected, accredited institutions that have a larger and more developed network than most online programs? Not only would this better prepare internet marketing students for work outside of school, but it would also aid prospective employers in hiring the right kind of talent for their digital marketing needs because they can target their efforts on actual internet marketing students. Do you realize how little my advertising degree means to an employer considering me for position in content strategy or SEO?

The Curriculum

Now, I haven’t even graduated college yet. In other words, I have absolutely no experience in creating or administering an educational course. I simply crafted this curriculum so that we, as a community, have a starting point for discussion and refinement of this topic. The chosen courses are based on a skillset that I believe would be most beneficial for an internet marketer coming out of college. Please note that freshman and sophomore years are often used to fulfill general college requirements and, in my experience, are rarely slated with major-related courses. Therefore, I’ll start with junior year.

Junior Year – 1st Semester

 

  • Internet Marketing Fundamentals
  • Marketing Research
  • Introduction to Information Technology
  • Applied Business Economics
  • 2 Non-Major Electives (Courses required by the school such as Literature, Sociology, etc.)

Junior Year – 2nd Semester

 

  • Introduction to Search Engine Marketing
  • Analytics & Web-Based Measurement
  • Introduction to Content Strategy
  • Social Media Marketing Fundamentals
  • Public Relations Principles
  • Non Major Elective

Senior Year – 1st Semester

 

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Web Conversion Optimization
  • Digital Marketing Ethics
  • Major Elective (See below)
  • Non Major Elective
  • (Add another elective based on credit requirements)

Senior Year – 2nd Semester

 

  • Inbound Marketing Management
  • Internet Marketing Tools
  • Non Major Elective
  • 2 Major Electives
  • (Add another Non Major Elective based on credit requirements)

Major Related Objective Examples:

 

  • Advanced PPC Strategy (Required: Intro to Search Engine Marketing)
  • Advanced Social Media (Required: Social Media Marketing Fundamentals)
  • Advanced SEO (Required: Intro to Search Engine Marketing)
  • Advanced Web Analytics (Required: Analytics & Web-Based Measurement)
  • Web Copywriting & Content Production
  • Graphic Design Fundamentals
  • B2B Marketing Specialization
  • Web Design & User Experience Fundamentals
  • Technical SEO & Information Architecture
  • Introduction to Computer Programming
  • Other IT or Web Development Courses


I believe the curriculum above has a solid mix of both internet marketing courses and general business courses that can appease the universities. The curriculum appears incomplete because it only sets a solid base from which students can further choose a niche or discipline by taking the major-related elective options. Also, the requirements for non-major related electives obviously varies from college to college. At Marquette, the requirements are particularly high and I fit that into this curriculum. At other schools, more Major related courses may be able to fill those spots.

Now Over to You.

What do you think of the curriculum above? Do you think it’s feasible in major universities? The purpose of this post was to drive discussion amongst us marketers so I’d love to hear your opinion. Also, any education professionals, please chime in!

32 Comments

  1. Reply
    Benjash January 17, 2013

    Isn’t the problem, that a lot the information learnt over the 3 years of the degree would be out of date?

    • Reply
      Alex Morask January 17, 2013

      Well the major-related stuff is usually over the course of 2 years (junior and senior years). But yes, to some extent, that’s true with how rapidly tools and techniques change in areas such SEO. But I still believe a foundational base can be established during the late college years.

      There have to be other industries (taught in colleges) that change/transform at a pace seemingly unfit for proper education. Maybe identifying and studying them as a starting point can help overcome the problem? Maybe not. It just seems to me that the lack of organized, all-in-one resources available to students looking to practice digital marketing should be addressed in some way and college may be the(a) way to do that.

      • Reply
        IrishWonder January 17, 2013

        And not only that is the problem – but also how do you teach things that the practicing community cannot agree upon even? I’m afraid that apart from maybe an introductory course explaining the basics, not much can really be taught and should be rather self taught with lots of practice and experimenting in the meantime. And from there (the very fact that nothing apart from a really basic introductory course can seriously be taught at any university) derives another bad problem of our industry – that anyone who has attended even a very basic course, as soon as they are done with that course, go ahead and call themselves SEO experts, online marketing gurus and the like – and how’s the poor innocent bystander to know where’s the truth? Furthermore, imagine what happens if a few months later such a “guru” goes on to teach others himself?

        Forgive me this shameless plug but if we’re talking about forms of education in the online marketing industry in general, here is a post I did on the topic of self-educating: http://www.stateofsearch.com/25-ways-to-learn-seo-for-free/ – hope that sheds some light too.

    • Reply
      Chris McGiffen January 21, 2013

      I don’t think that SEO is particularly special at the rate it changes; when I started my computing course the WWW barely featured and there was no Java, four years later they were major components. What you consider the ‘basics’ is probably what most courses aim to teach – the underlying theories and reasoning behind the subject; this gives us a good base to see why the latest technique or tool is useful and how it can fit in. With my own experience when we went from some archaic language to Java it was a breeze, and I could see how the WWW worked and fitted in with the wider Internet.

  2. Reply
    Scott Cowley January 17, 2013

    Alex,

    I think this is an important topic, the demand is there, and it’s also a problem that extends beyond marketing. How are students going to learn in college what they’re actually going to use in industry, when the people teaching them aren’t in industry?

    I don’t know about Marquette, but at ASU, there is 1 Internet marketing class taught by 1 guy who happens to run an internet marketing agency as his day job. He’s the kind of person who is great for teaching that kind of class – 1 foot in the office, 1 foot in the classroom. The question is, how do you find enough people like that to staff a whole degree? The curriculum is the easy part of the equation.

    I’ll be teaching a marketing class this summer–probably intro to marketing or marketing strategy–not sure yet. I’m lucky that I spent years in SEO. I don’t have to teach a search engine optimization class to teach SEO. I can structure the curriculum of the more general class to be focused on relevant digital marketing examples, strategy, and tactics. When are we going to see more digital marketers get into academia?

    • Reply
      Alex Morask January 17, 2013

      Scott, I wholeheartedly agree. Almost all of the instructors who teach the advertising courses here also work at agencies in the area. This type of learning definitely provides the best possible experience for the students. It seems that the same absolutely has to be true for digital marketing as it’s a more technical and broader field.

      The class you’re teaching sounds great. And having more digital marketing professionals get into academia would be truly beneficial.

      • Reply
        Stuart Draper January 18, 2013

        Great thoughts Scott and Alex!

        TENURE and AGE are the two main reasons why I believe most universities don’t teach internet marketing. No 55 year old professor wants to get up in front of a class that knows more than him about what he is teaching.

        I taught Web Business 101 at BYU-Idaho while I was running my agency. It was tough to make time for both. I enjoy teaching it, but there is definitely more money on the agency side than the teaching side. As the internet marketing world evolves, more will teach it when they are ready to “give back” after making millions.

        I just recently did some research into which colleges are teaching online marketing and which are not. You would be amazed. 50% of the colleges I spoke with do not offer online marketing courses of any kind. I will share my findings in a blog post when the timing is right.

  3. Reply
    John January 17, 2013

    I love the idea of teaching Internet Marketing but understand where the university/college is coming from. The goal of a College/Accredited school is to build a foundation for the rest of your career. You shouldn’t expect to just learn c++ or java while in school and not have to worry about keeping up with what is new (node.js, python, ruby). Before college I had gotten a lot of real world experience mostly in networking and support center work. I was SHOCKED by how little my CS degree covered with new topics. Now don’t get me wrong the biggest thing I would have changed if I could would have been to focus on integrating the real world with the abstract foundation. Just think, instead of having homework assignments you are learning the same material but applying it differently – like a business. So think with every course you take at Marquette and see if there is a way you can do/build/etc a component of this into your work. Senior project – launch an online campaign for Jetblue or something. Granted Jetblue doesn’t have to do it – but build a pitch deck of what they could do – most likely lead to a job!

    Your mapping of a career would be ideal for someone who already had a degree in marketing/communications and wants to dive a bit deep, which is why online universities like full sail (fail?) have a market. Between http://udemy.com/ and http://www.skillshare.com/ the market is going to explode.

    I know you are not going to be changing any college/university any time soon, but I would give this little suggestion. Embrace the change and build for it. Take your courses that you have laid out and put together a curriculum on udemy with each of these. Just look at this excel course – http://www.udemy.com/excel-tutorial/ – 22594 students and $100 – umm $2,236,806 not so bad as a passive income stream with a little Q/A.

    Just some thoughts!

  4. Reply
    Patrick Hathaway January 17, 2013

    In my experience (UK) very few people who were at uni had any clue what they wanted to do after uni – myself included. A lot of my uni mates studied things that they have never used since – biology, geography etc…

    But the brilliant thing about digital marketing is that the skillsets are incredibly transferable. The essential problem we are typically solving is ‘how do we get the most customers to perform these actions in the most efficient way possible.’ There isn’t a business on the planet that doesn’t have to deal with these issues – whether in a digital framework or not.

    The point about everything going out of date is a good one – but wouldn’t that make for an incredibly fast paced and exciting course? And a lot of the principles would hold true. Also, it is natural for techniques to develop the further into a subject you delve. I studied maths and the stuff we did in year 1 was child’s play compared to the year 4 stuff. Basic principles of link building to advanced content marketing strategy…

    TL;DR: I think it could work.

    • Reply
      IrishWonder January 18, 2013

      What could work is inviting practitioners on a one-off basis so that they could talk about what they are currently doing and observing in the industry, rather than putting together a whole curriculum detailed down to every hour. That might indeed work. But there are just as many opinions as there are practitioners, so who gets to decide whom to invite? Also, the best ones are quite busy so might not be able to do it, which is surely a pity. You know how the saying goes, those who can do, do, those who cannot, teach (not saying this applies to every person teaching – there are of course some great professors knowledgeable in their area and passionate about what they teach, but well…)

  5. Reply
    Sbrockm1 January 18, 2013

    Hi All,

    Would just like to point out that at little known, and often overlooked, Eastern Michigan University there is, in fact, a “Search Marketing” curriculum. There are three courses: Google Adwords and Landing Page Design, Google Analytics and Landing Page Optimization, and the final all encompassing practicum where students manage a non-profit’s Adwords campaign and analyze account performance using Google Analytics. They develop an online professional networking presence using a personal blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to gain direct experience using online social networking to gain search visibility. Successful students ultimately qualify for professional certification (GAIQ)

    As a one time student, and now assistant to the Search Marketing Program at Eastern Michigan, I can certainly say that the experience shaped my career goals and aspirations far beyond a traditional business degree. While students do not graduate with a printed degree declaring them as an internet marketing wiz, they are supplied with a complete idea of how to search, and craft, a career in multiple aspects of internet marketing.

  6. Reply
    Gyorgy January 18, 2013

    I completed a Master of Electronic Commerce course at the University of Wollongong in Australia, and I ended up being an online marketing consultant a.k.a SEO. :-)
    The course was quite good and the Internet marketing subject made me interested in SEO. This is the 2007 course handbook: http://www.uow.edu.au/handbook/yr2007/pg/informatics/UOW007203.html

  7. Reply

    [...] Antony Pensebene published a post on the Saloon of Literature titled, "Dear Universities, Teach Internet Marketing". [...]

  8. Reply
    Mike January 18, 2013

    I’m sceptical, to be honest. Partly because online marketing is such a new channel, and as such it’s developing rapidly – I don’t see how it can be ‘taught’ in a formalised degree at present.

    Also, frankly, IM itself in its current state isn’t that hard. PageRank theory is pretty easy to explain, and while it has over the years evolved to counter all the attempts to manipulate it, at it’s core SEO is still pretty much ‘Put keyword on page, then get backlinks’. The ‘what’ with Inbound isn’t complicated at all. It’s the ‘How’ that is constantly evolving, and just like traditional marketing no two SEO’s will ever go about it in the same way.

    Paid channels are a bit more formalised and require some maths, but calculating conversion rates and maximum acceptable CPCs hardly requires degree level skills. Anyone who is good enough at maths to persevere with it beyond 16 will probably get it.

    My degree was in video production. When I got into SEO, I played it down because of the perception of ‘Lol, media degree’ that existed. 2 years ago that degree meant little and less on my CV – Now, the value of video is being increasingly recognised and its suddenly a selling point.

    My point is, you still don’t have to go too far back to the days when Internet Marketing meant shady one man bands with networks of affiliate sites. It’s still new, it’s a poorly defined, and it’s rapidly developing. It’s too early to specialise in Internet Marketing. What’s needed is skills in other areas and people working out how to integrate them into IM and continue its evolution.

  9. Reply
    Sean January 18, 2013

    I must be missing something really obvious here?

    Year 1Psychology/Sociology – Learn how people work. How to get them to do what you want. Manipulation 101.

    Year 2Marketing – Learn about all forms of offline and online marketing including online areas that are less likely to change over time – Email, PPC, perhaps some inbound(obviously review and refresh yearly if necessary)

    Year 3Online Marketing – The most up to date SEO/Social marketing. The syllabus will be chosen by the teacher and will include reading up on a set list of resources as well as recent content that the teacher approves (surely this is the best anyone can do?)

    If a year is too long for each area then do it in 3 parts instead, maybe within a year. Yes this is a very simplistic version but I think it would work.

    I honestly believe that most SEOs are afraid of an official course because they won’t have a piece of paper stating that they are an official SEO and how do you sell shitty services then?

    • Reply
      IrishWonder January 18, 2013

      Like having a piece of paper is a guarantee that no shitty services will be sold?

      • Reply
        Sean January 18, 2013

        No, of course not, but I know that plenty of SEO’s would be worried about looking inferior to their paper enhanced brothers.

        • Reply
          Amy Fowler January 18, 2013

          Argh I never thought of it like this… I don’t whether it’s about looking ‘inferior’, more that just over time, companies might start *requiring* that job applicants have a paper qualification.

          Hopefully any decent agency would know that experience is the most important thing, and wouldn’t expect someone with 10 years experience to go and get an official qualification just for the sake of meeting some senseless criteria.

          Hopefully.

          • Reply
            Sean January 18, 2013

            I think any company worth their salt will realise that experience in the job > an SEO qualification. However I think that businesses looking to hire an SEO company might care about something like this (rightly or wrongly)

      • Reply
        Patrick Hathaway January 18, 2013

        I like your suggestions Sean – particularly the emphasis on the psychology element. Doing up to date SEO in year 3 makes sense as well so you can avoid the ‘up to date’ issue.

        Don’t really agree that SEOs are afraid of official courses – as if a recent IM graduate would be ‘superior’ to a Rand Fishkin?

        • Reply
          Sean January 18, 2013

          Cheers dude. I think the psychology side is very important when it comes to marketing. Understand who you are trying to target!

          You’re right a recent graduate won’t be seen as superior to any of the ‘names’ or ‘agencies’ however they might be seen as more trustworthy in comparison to freelancers or small businesses? (again rightly or wrongly!)

    • Reply
      Amy Fowler January 18, 2013

      In terms of the course layout, I think a year probably is too long for each. Is there really enough static information to teach to cover a full 3 year course? I think perhaps a module per year may be more realistic.

      But then, even touching on online marketing a little would be a great start. I find it absolutely crazy that today so few marketing courses seem to accept that digital marketing is now a pretty flippin important element of what they teach.

      • Reply
        Sean January 18, 2013

        “I’m really looking forward to the online module, when is it?”
        “Ummm, we don’t think online marketing is relevant to modern day marketing”
        “Oh.”

        *slowly backs out of room*

  10. Reply
    @TimothyAlcock January 18, 2013

    Really well thought out post would be an interesting couse! + the extra curricular drinking and partying :)

    Definitely enough you can teach to get a legitimate degree, My issue is with Uni’s themselves and the value that employers place on degrees is dwindling year upon year and regards the out of date issue, Universities already teach out of date material before you start the first year.

    Universities generally teach the foundation of a given subject leaving you to go out in the big wide world and learn your trade.

    When I used to work in an agency we always used to steer clear of people from an Seo background so that we could teach them rather than them coming with a pre conception of what SEO is, what im trying to say is a fresh faced graduate aint going to bring ay more to the table than anyone else. you still have to teach them and wait for them to gain experience.

    I think they could easily create a legitimate course but I dont think its as valuable 6 months doing it. Save your fees university 9 times out of ten is a con to get your pennies and the things they teach are dated.

    A private online course for companies wanting to train employees, now theres an idea.

    • Reply
      Patrick Hathaway January 18, 2013

      I see what you’re saying Timothy but to be fair loads of people do ‘useless’ (i.e. non-vocational) degrees that they never ever use in the real. If a degree course at least taught the fundamentals and got students thinking/doing internet marketing I think they would certainly bring something more to the table than any old fresh faced graduate.

  11. Reply
    Kevin Vertommen January 18, 2013

    I was lucky enough to be in the first ‘internet marketing’ education in Belgium. The Ehsal Management School started this course (Digital Marketing & Communication) in 2010. It was a postgraduate course, meaning you needed a master in marketing degree to participate.

    The great thing was that we always had professors who worked for agencies and companies. This was great because they were able to show us interesting case studies and show us valuable tips and tricks.

    Really glad I got that degree.

  12. Reply
    Deirdre January 18, 2013

    Universities do teach internet marketing-they just don’t call it internet marketing. I majored in Digital Technology & Culture at Washington State University and a lot of our classes were about how people perceive communications on the internet and the best way to communicate digitally-which is essentially internet marketing. We also learned about graphic design and web design and writing for the web-again all important for a career in internet marketing. I also think a lot of Marketing Communications programs do cover internet marketing in detail and what’s really lacking is standard language to describe internet marketing both in university programs and job descriptions.

  13. Reply
    Gareth January 18, 2013

    I see no harm in such courses, they will give a good grounding of the subject matter, however truth be told this is such a fast moving environment that even many top seo companies can’t keep up with up does anyone really believe that they can do a course and become a top internet marketeer and link builder. Not in my opinion, this is a 24/7 continually learning curve, get the grounding yes, understanding communication via the internet but then you need to get on the ground in a top agency or spend your entire life researching, learning and appreciating the daily changes to really make it to the top in this sector.

  14. Reply
    John Kamal January 19, 2013

    Universities should indeed start offering internet marketing programs. However, the only challenge will be that internet marketing is always changing really fast so what students would learn in Junior year could be irrelevant by the time they graduate.

    It will have to be a more ongoing learning process.

  15. Reply
    Harris Schachter January 20, 2013

    What’s up Alex,

    Some great points here about education in general, and internet marketing specifically. To cut to the core of the matter, internet marketing changes so quickly it is almost not even practical to teach it in a university setting – once class has the potential to change drastically from one semester to the next.

    I’m glad you mentioned Full Sail here, as a graduate of their Master’s program I can honestly say it was time (and money) well spent. I attended a regular university for my undergraduate degree, and completely agree that you can’t just head straight for an online school right out of high school. You definitely need the couple years of gen ed to figure out what you want to major in.

    Let me know if you have any questions about Full Sail or the curriculum, I’d be happy to answer them.

  16. Reply
    Taylor Corrado May 22, 2013

    Hi Alex,

    I’m the nonprofit/higher-ed marketing manager at HubSpot. I saw that you are a huge fan of ours and tweeted about this recently. My colleague shared this post with me and I’d be really interested to speak with you about this. We are in the process literally this week of re-packaging our professor program that is this very idea. We have a number of professors on board already and I’d love to get some ideas from you as well.

    Feel free to reach out to me at any time – tcorrado@hubspot.com

  17. Reply
    Alex Morask May 23, 2013

    Taylor,

    That’s awesome to hear!! I will definitely be in touch with you shortly.

    Thanks!

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