Social Media in the Classroom: Principles of Advertising

By Sara Steffes Hansen, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Social media dynamically shapes learning in “Principles of Advertising.” Many forms and uses of social media are underway to meet specific learning objectives:
  1. Understand advertising in traditional and new media, which often integrate
  2. Learn uses of social media, in context of societal and professional trends
  3. Advance communication skills, creativity and critical thought regarding advertising theory and practice, within a community of “colleagues”
Journalism students must prepare for evolving media – learning and critically understanding today’s media, with a mindset for futuristic versions. Students proficiently use Facebook personally, but often lack knowledge of how organizations, businesses and media professionals use social media. Via activities of our Journalism Department blog, Facebook and Twitter presence, we saw a need to aid development of social-media proficiency for students earlier in our program. As such, Principles of Advertising was selected for social media – reaching 50 sophomores and juniors. The syllabus extended to include an initial experience of blogging, which integrates with use of YouTube and other online resources for a class research project and oral presentation. As well, Twitter aided objectives as a new experience for lecture/discussion and small-group active learning.

Blogging and Presenting Core to Class
Each student is a blog author, creating a posting with pictures and links related to weekly topics on our class blog. Each student also gives a five-minute PowerPoint presentation, based on the posting and integrated with YouTube and other online resources. “Test blog” assignments help students learn functionality, and get to know each other as a community. Posts also focus on guest speakers, student organizations, favorite viral ads and related topics. Blog authors gain important skills in communicating via text, links and pictures for online social interaction. Students look forward to presentations from peers with regular use of YouTube, alongside credible academic and professional resources.

Twitter Reporters Start a Tweeting Trend
Twitter can be intimidating to students. Instead of assigning mandatory tweeting, I tried to spark a series of helpful, fun experiences to convey micro-blogging and Twitter uses beyond class. We met in a computer lab for a hands-on Twitter tutorial. Ongoing Twitter tips in class demonstrated tweeting from laptops and mobile phones. Students were invited to be Twitter Reporters (for no credit) in class. Online resources were provided about how to tweet from live events – to reinforce concepts, share insights and participate in discussion. Five students signed up to be Twitter Reporters for our first Twitter session in class. I teach from two screens during sessions. One screen projects my lecture/discussion PowerPoint, often with YouTube links and references to our class blog. The second screen shows real-time tweets made with our class hashtag. In the first session, my five reporters grew to 12. The next week, half of the class was tweeting! Many learned by watching the live Twitter screen, and were motivated to join the conversation. Assignments included:
  • Before class, tweet about concepts from assigned reading, referencing traditional and social media, with links to related research
  • In small groups, tweet about discussion topics and watch the live feed to see ideas from other groups – think, challenge, ask, enjoy
Twitter Sessions Expand Beyond Classroom
Social media can expand our learning conversations and community. To show these important aspects, I invited advertising and social media professionals to join our class Twitter discussion from their offices anywhere in the U.S. The students and professionals tweeted about theory, practice and aspects of the field. Students conversed via tweets during and outside of class. Students were encouraged to directly dialogue with professionals in small-group assignments. A sampling:
  • Make a series of tweets to a professional about the week’s course topic
  • Interact with a brand on Twitter related to the week’s course topic
Professional responses and real-world stories add exciting relevancy. Re-tweets from students and professionals with our class hashtag led to more interested people tuning in. Students invited friends to join our sessions, and outside of class, other undergrads watched the class hashtag. Twitter topics added depth to learning, and the students’ collegial nature grew and extended into a broader community.

Teaching Through Examples and Assignments

Many customized resources were created for students, including how-to documents for the blog and Twitter:
  • A blog and presentation example provided in class and within syllabus
  • A PowerPoint tutorial on how to get started with Twitter
  • Twitter assignments for weekly topics – this excerpt is from Media Planning:
  1. Tweet about any concept/idea in the text (don’t quote the book) along with your opinion about it. Include #(class hashtag) in your tweets.
    Example: Context effects refer to media vehicles impacting how we view ads – popup ads on websites always annoy me! #(class hashtag)
  2. Tweet about a concept/idea in the text (don’t quote the book) that has to do with social media, along with your opinion about it.
  3. Tweet more about the concept/idea in #1 or #2 by finding a credible online article about it (list of websites below) and including its link in your tweet as a tiny url (directions below – it’s easy!)
    Example: AdAge: Twitter growing in media mix for movie marketers – cool to see consumer voices ahead of box office sales #(class hashtag)
Other Helpful Resources & Quick View of Our Social Media Classroom

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