Centenary Creates Social Media Push to Teach Online Skills
Centenary University, a small, private school in Hackettstown, N.J., now has something that most schools don’t: an entire center dedicated to social media.
“Social media exists in the virtual world,” says Kathy Naasz, dean of the Centenary University center. “But we needed a physical space to discuss it.”
Glass doors and sleek wood flooring mark the entryway of the brand new center, which officially opens Oct. 9. Inside, students have access to a wall of screens to keep tabs on what’s trending online, six iMac stations, glass walls that act as boards for brainstorming ideas and group collaboration tables that turn into mini classrooms.
Additionally, large brands like Unilever and small businesses in Hackettstown, N.J., will be visiting Centenary to work with students.
“It’s not just a classroom, an office or a lab,” Naasz says. “It’s all three together.”
She adds that students are well versed in social media for personal use, but when it comes to using it strategically, they need some guidance.
Centenary University offers a social media concentration available to business majors, and a social media minor for all other majors. It’s far from alone: Schools including Georgetown University, the University of Louisville and Newberry College in South Carolina have social media-based programs as well.Newberry made new in fall 2013 by launching a major in social media.
University of Louisville and Georgetown, for instance, have courses that cover topics like etiquette on social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Georgetown also offers a graduate certificate in social media management, according to its School of Continuing and Professional Studieswebsite. The website advocates for the program by citing a 12% growth rate in management jobs in marketing, advertisements and promotion by 2022 — a figure that is about average for job growth,accordingto the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Karen Freberg, an assistant professor of strategic communications at University of Louisville, teaches a class in social media. She says using outlets like Twitter can help students get jobs after graduation —and that those who can use them well and responsibly are more likely to be attractive applicants.
“As educators, we have this role of basically setting the example and showing students and colleagues and others how we can use social media in the classroom strategically and professionally,” she says.
Freberg adds that classes centered on social media add to the “traditional academic environment” that has seen shake-ups in recent years. For example, massively open online courses (MOCCs) have made higher education courses more accessible.
Freberg’s course also covers online tools. The course integrates an online program from the social media managing application Hootsuite to help students keep track of what they learn in lectures. Students can expect to learn about how to behave professionally on the Internet and how to use social media as a networking tool — and they’ll take online quizzes about what they’ve learned, too, she says.
Kimberly Yu, the program manager at Hootsuite University, says that the online application helps to bring higher education and social media together — a move that she says hasn’t come since the program launched in 2012.
Jeff Rushton, the director of digital media at University of Louisville, says the focus on social media in the classroom comes from a demand in the job market.
“From my standpoint, we all know that industry is screaming for people that are more versed in social media,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what profession or what job you’re in, you have to have some knowledge of it almost to just get a job these days.”
Ben Boskovich, the social media manager atEsquire Magazine, says that it’s important for students to learn about the advent of social media in school because the market for jobs in social media looks for people who have a “higher level of knowledge” about it.
“Whether you’re studying to be a writer, editor, photographer, musician, actor or businessperson, learning the ins and outs of social media and how to use it to your advantage is crucial,” he says.
Boskovich said the way that news is shared through social media has prompted an elevated need for social media training.
“Its evolution into one of the most important parts of being a journalist happened tremendously fast,” Boskovich says. “Luckily because of my experience personally, I was able to make a career out of it eventually, but looking back, I would have loved to have gotten a jumpstart from someone who’d been seasoned in it.”
Ryan Lasker is a student at George Washington University and Natasha Rausch is a student at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Both are fall 2015 Collegiate Correspondents.