Teaching Social Media in PR Programs

On Monday a post went up on PR at Sunrise it was a follow up on a post about a Canadian university’s communications program and the lack of classes regarding social media. I found the debate that ensued between the two articles was interesting. One from a students point of view and the other from the faculty. This was something I struggled with at my university during my last two years, there were no classes in social media offered and to my knowledge there still aren’t any.

All students in public relations are well aware that social media and online communication is a huge aspect of today’s PR. Bigger schools can afford to bring in social media heavy hitters and give their students the tools they’ll need for all aspects of PR. However smaller schools, like my alma mater Northern Michigan University, who are facing record level budget cuts can’t afford to create new classes.

From the students point of view this is something that should just be done and there are schools that are trying, like Mount Saint Vincent University. What both parties need to do is work together. The people creating and teaching social media are often professors who are already employed by the university and have to bone up on the material on their own. They need just as much help learning the material, and deciding what relavant information should be covered, as a new student to the program. Personally I think what would work best here is a good old fashioned focus group. Have the administration hold several focus groups, of current students in the program, local professionals in the PR field focused on using social media, and recent graduates of the program.

This is an action that needs to be taken, I can say with confidence that schools that don’t create social media or online networking classes for specific programs are shooting themselves in the foot. Social Media is something that’s here to stay, it might not always be in the form of Facebook or Twitter but it will forever be part of our new 21st century culture and business practices.

Universities (coughNMUcough) this is your call to action, I know times are tough but there are people already on your staff that are most likely crazy about social media and would be willing to teach a couple classes a semester.

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