Tweeting for extra credit?

I guess it was only a matter of time before you could major in Facebook and Twitter for your undergraduate studies. Newberry College in South Carolina will be offering one of the first undergraduate majors and minors dedicated to social media.

Tania Sosiak, the founder of the school’s social media program and an associate professor of graphic design and social media, was interviewed on life as a social media major by the Huffington Posts’s Bianca Bosker (@bbosker) about the perceived need for a social media program and what the curriculum will look like.

Some people think that I’m crazy and that my students are crazy for doing this, but someone’s got to do this because social media is not going anywhere and I think we’re doing something special and exciting by preparing these graduates.

……

We’re teaching students to do a lot of things and they’re going to be highly successful and they will be prepared to get a job. And in this day and age, it’s really important to be able to get out there, to think on your feet, to have a strong arsenal of tools and to be prepared.

The social media major will include courses in graphic design, communications, business administration, psychology, and statistics. along with four original courses including,

  • SOM 101: Introduction to Social Media (“[Students] will gain theoretical and professional knowledge that will enable them to understand the key issues and challenges within social media; they will also develop projects in which [they] will simulate social media environments”)
  • SOM 301: Social Publishing Platforms (“Students will design online websites including content such as writing, video, digital photography and design of site”), as well as classes in computer graphics, digital photography, “communications law and ethics” and e-commerce.

Sosiak emphasizes that social media goes beyond using Facebook and YouTube, it also involves critical thinking.

…I’m going to have different faculty members come in and conduct their courses using social media tools. The students will also develop a service learning project [on a topic] that will be chosen and develop some sort of publishing platform that will help a community project. Students will realize how much social media can be used to benefit the community.

The major looks to have students develop practical skills being sought by some employers.

Something we want to do in the social media marketing class is have students create their own brand and product, along with a campaign for it, then have them follow it to see how it progresses because a lot of them don’t really understand about brands or branding.

I don’t know that I’m fan of graduating social media majors. Especially with tuition costing many parents in excess of $40,000 per year.

Why not focus on a major that prepares you for life long learning – english, engineering, history? If you want to better perfect your social media and social networking skills so as to expand your network for learning, collaborating, or reputation building go for it. If your university offers a class or two on the strategic use of social media from the business, communication/journalism, or other department, take advantage of the classes.

Sure, social media takes a while to grasp. Ask any lawyer. But graduating with a social media major is no substitute for experience. Look around. They are quite a few of us, though always needing to learn more, who are doing well in our use of social media without having gone to school for it.

You need to look critically at the faculty as well.

  • Have they been out using social media in the market place? In what fashion?
  • Have they enhanced their careers or built a brand through social networking and social media?
  • How have they used social media and social networking to nurture and build relationships?
  • Have they used social media and social networking to grow a network for learning and collaboration?

Anyone can ‘use’ social media and social networks, but if you are asking young adults to get a major in a program you are leading, you better know your stuff.

Bosker’s question of Sosiak as to why she had only tweeted three times in tree years was a good question. One that Sosiak did not have a good answer to. Sosiak’s use of LinkedIn was not too impressive either.

Social media can have a role in the classroom. The University of Notre Dame is going to have a business school social media/social networking class for second semester seniors this spring. I am going back to teach one of the classes (not the course). But it’s just one class. In addition to a senior marketing professor, the school is bringing in industry experts to teach at least half of the classes.

At this time, I think we’re better served with a few classes on social media, especially in certain schools (business – marketing, journalism/communication) and have students major in more traditional fields.

What do you think?