Digital Marketing as an Academic Subject

Digital marketing is growing at an incredible rate which has seen it become a University Module that students can now choose as an option.  Lots of people learn about digital marketing through their jobs, reading articles or blogs and following people on Twitter. However, what’s it like as an actual academic module to study and learn about?

This blog is going to reflect on the kind of areas and experiences that studying a Digital Marketing module entails.

The Textbook

The first aspect of any module is the textbook you learn from. The growth of digital marketing is clear to see given that the textbook has had THREE different names in the past three years; E-Marketing, Internet Marketing and now Digital Marketing.

Also remarkably the textbook we used was published in the summer of 2012…and was already out of date with its content! There were a few reasons for this.

The main one was despite the unbelievable growth of mobile marketing, there was no chapter at all on it! So one would assume that the next edition should have extensive coverage on this form of digital, considering mobile is the future!

Additionally, there wasn’t a chapter on social media, only reference to parts of it like blogs in certain chapters. Again another key element of digital that’s growing dramatically that wasn’t included.

However, the textbook was very good, and did cover every area in depth.  Though, it’s understandable that the rapidness at which digital marketing evolves over such a short period of time can see bits missed when it’s published.

The Subject Areas

The modules main benefit was that it provided a clear overview of virtually every aspect of digital marketing week by week. Here’s a list of how the subject areas were covered and the modules structure.

Week One: Introduction to digital marketing, contrasts and comparisons with traditional media, the 4P’s of digital marketing

Week Two: Website usability and navigation

Week Three: Website development and design

Week Four: Web analytics (covering all the main metrics)

Week Five: Banner advertising, Affiliate, Email & Viral Marketing, and Online PR

Week Six: Digital marketing strategies

Week Seven: Search marketing (SEO & PPC)

Week Eight: Social media

Week Nine: Mobile marketing

Week Ten: Customer relationship marketing (CRM)

So, as you can see a broad range of digital marketing subjects were covered, going from the overview of what digital marketing is, right through to the three main growing areas; social media, mobile and CRM.

Personally, I found learning about all the areas of digital marketing both enjoyable and insightful. Also as this is the industry that I want to build a career around, it was essential to be able to understand every facet of it in detail. However, it would’ve been nice to go in greater detail about mobile and social media, as these two areas are growing so quickly.

The Lectures and Seminars

The modules overall contact hours per week were a two hour lecture and a fortnightly one hour seminar which took place within a computer lab. Whilst every other week the seminars were used for self-studying where work was submitted via the University’s intranet system.

The lectures would regularly include videos to show how actual companies use digital marketing . This provided an idea of the practical use of areas such as email marketing or search or mobile.  So being a digital module, technology was at the forefront of how it was taught.

The Assignment and Exam

There might be a difference between how the module is assessed depending on which university you attend. But for my module, there was a group assignment that was worth 40%, and a final exam that was worth 60%.

The group assignment (in teams of 4) was to create a fictitious university student society and create a website for it by using a website template provider such as Weebly. The main focus of the website was on its usability, navigation and content. Therefore, the site had to be easy to use with clear links, tabs, layout and format. Also users had to be able to find what they wanted through efficient navigation.

In addition, the content had to be informative and engaging to make it effective. The focus was less on design, colour or appearance, rather how the site is used.  Our group produced a website for The Board Games Society! To accompany the website, a 2,000 word theoretical group report had to be written that was applied to our website.

The exam which I sat a couple of weeks ago was two hours where we had to choose two out of the five questions, and write an essay on each of the ones we chose. The five questions covered mobile marketing, email marketing, web analytics, social media strategies and to compare & contrast traditional advertising, SEO and Viral Marketing.

So, the assessments focussed on many of the key areas of digital marketing, namely websites, social media and mobile.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the experience of the digital marketing module was extremely good, and provides a solid knowledge base for the industry, or fills in some of the gaps if you were already familiar with it. Something that will be interesting to see in the future is how the module is taught in two or three years time, will areas such as mobile or social media be focused on more, will a new form of digital marketing emerge, or will it even still be called Digital Marketing?

Finally, with students being able to study  ‘Marketing’ to ‘E-Business’ to ‘Digital Marketing’, the question is will there be a module solely devoted to Mobile or Social Media in the future? That would be very interesting to study, but only time will tell.

Thanks for reading my blog post. If you have a question or any opinions on the post, please feel free to comment. You can also follow me on Twitter @digitalstuart.

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