Teaching digital marketing requires "hands on" learning in order to have an effective learning experience for students. Keyword embeddedness, title tags, and SEO are terms that students will likely forget once they have finished the exam if the class is based on standard lectures and exams. Using a website builder and creating an assignment in which the students have to apply the concepts that they have learned is a great way to reinforce learning. Each semester, my students create a personal website using a website builder. At the end of the semester, I frequently assign a reflection paper in which students also give me feedback on their likes and dislikes of the course. A reoccurring theme that I find is that creating a website made the concepts "click' in the mind of the students. Here are some of my tips for using website builders in the classroom.
1. Create your own website to use for demonstration purposes
By creating my own website, I show the students that I have credibility in that I can also do what I am teaching them. I will open my own website builder and show them how to navigate the builder. I tell my students that personally, I prefer Weebly, but they may choose any of the available website builders. Most will choose Weebly because I also tell them that if they need assistance with the builder, I will help them with Weebly but if they choose another website builder, they are on their own.
As we go through the course, I will open my Weebly account and show them how to use SEO, create products, etc. The website assignment is a project that covers over half the course. I try to lead as many topics as possible back to their personal websites.
2. Have each student create a website
The first week of class, each student signs an agreement for the elective stating that they understand that creating a website and maintaining social media accounts are requirements of the class. Most students create personal branding websites to use for a job search; however, I have had students create a business website or specialized website for the assignment. They all have to include specific components that are personalized for each student. If a graduating senior is interested in becoming an entrepreneur, your class could be where the business is launched and the assignment can be altered for the student's needs.
3. Combine Strategic, Creative, and Technical concepts all in one assignment
Teaching concepts in a silo makes it difficult for students to integrate those concepts. By creating one assignment that integrates all three, students have the opportunity to see how all three are important and work together. My website assignment at least touches on all three by having students do the following:
1) Start with strategic by setting at least one goal for the website.
2) Work on the creative by creating a Style Guide for graphical identity standards.
3) Determine which content will help best achieve the website goal.
4) Develop the navigational structure for the content
5) Create the content
6) Use the SEO features in the website builder to include meta keywords, title tags, alt tags for images, site/page descriptions, etc.
7) Connect to Google Analytics
8) For those who are interested, connect to Google Adsense
4. Emphasize the Customer Experience
Usability testing is crucial for website design. I have each student perform peer evaluations of the websites of two other students in the class. I do provide guidance by giving the students a form to fill out which has plenty of room for comments. Emphasis is placed on constructive comments. Students look for errors, ensure that all links work, and provide feedback on both creative and usability issues. This is done before the final website is due and students have time to implement the suggestions given by their peers.
5. Website builders have great tutorials.
I provide links to articles and videos to help areas within Weebly. One benefit to me is that I don't have to keep showing students the technical aspects of building their website.
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