Social media in the classroom

A post on Mashable today, reposting the news about  Birmingham City University’s new social media graduate program got me thinking about the implications of more universities offering courses in new media, social media and all of the above.

I have a great passion for education and, especially when it comes to communications, I believe there is nothing better than when scholars’ work goes hand-in-hand with that of those who pratice the profession in order to improve best practices.

As an undergraduate I read my share of public relations and marketing text books, sat through lectures and took tests to eventually earn the degree that now lets others know that I probably know something about the Uses and Gratifications theory and the four P’s of Marketing. But theory is best learned when put into practice. My interships allowed me to truly see what I was getting myself into in context.

I know about social media because Facebook launched when I was a freshman in college and ever since then it has been second nature to me (also I am very curious). But what I think we are coming to, finally, is the inevitable – the writing of social media textbooks and the acknowledgement of social media as not only a field in communications but perhaps an industry in and of itself.

My alma mater taught courses on Web design and virtual reality games while I was still in school, Syracuse University managed to establish a New Media Studies graduate program but ended up dissolving it last semester (the courses are still available as electives) and more universities are offering new and social media courses to complement existing communications programs. Here is a description of Birmingham City University’s social media M.A. program.Here are my questions:

  1. If or when degrees in social media become widespread and standard, how will universities ensure that students get the amount of hands-on experience that this field requires?
  2. Where does a master’s degree in social media leave the self-taught?
  3. If social media is best learned through practice, how do we even out the playing field for future generations?
  4. Will social media also lead to the reinvention of academic curricula (I must admit that’s the first time I’ve used the word curricula) with less time spent in class and on theory and more time spent “out there” and on practice?
  5. Will social media degrees only be offered at the graduate level so that students can first learn a more traditional trade?
  6. Can we think of the books, blogs and analytics that are already out there as the first pages of the new social media textbooks? Will they only be available to students on Kindles?
  7. If Edward L. Bernays is known as the father of public relations, who is the father of social media?
  8. Who is the mother?
  9. And, generally speaking, shouldn’t it be mother instead of father seeing as how the mother literally births and nurtures the child? Just a thought.

If you wish you were back in school raise your hand.

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