Course design in higher education has changed significantly over the years. Back when I was an undergraduate, most of my professors handed out a one page syllabus, told us to buy the textbook, and gave 2 to 3 exams over the semester. Fortunately for our students, many professors today think past the classroom experience and try to design courses that provide students with a broad range of hard and soft skills.
For digital marketing educators, there is an additional challenge. Our industry is constantly changing. For professors who have multiple preps and who are also trying to produce research, staying current can be a daunting task. To make this task more manageable for myself, I have found that incorporating industry certifications into my course is an excellent solution.
6 Tips for Incorporating Industry Certifications
1) Find a certification that complements your course objectives
For a foundations course in digital marketing, HubSpot offers an Inbound Marketing Certification that fits nicely with the course content of most overview courses such as Internet Marketing. For a specialized digital course, they offer certifications in email, content, and several other areas. For Social Media Marketing, HootSuite offers a free certification with course materials that focus on the use of their software. Students can also take the Social Media Marketing Certification exam but there is a cost of $199. Google AdWords is perfect for a class on PPC and Display Advertising and and it is free.
2) Complete the certification before you design your course
We all get busy and it can be tempting to think that "I can just stay ahead of my students." This is not a good strategy to follow. Design your course before the semester begins and start with completing the certification that you intend to incorporate. You don't want any surprises. Also, I have found that when the content from the certification modules complement my material, I can spend less time lecturing and more time on experiential exercises in the classroom. You may also have students who get excited about the certification and work ahead. You don't want a student to know more about the content that you do.
3) Arrange your course schedule to match the certification schedule
Many of us take a textbook and rearrange the chapters in the order in which we want to teach the content. This works when concepts are connected but don't necessarily build on each other. My suggestion is to teach your chapters in the order that fits with the design of the certification modules. I have done this with the Roberts and Zahay Internet Marketing Textbook and the HubSpot Certification.
4) Make sure the students stay on track with the certification by giving in class quizzes
I have written quizzes for each module of any certification that I have incorporated. I assign the videos for students to watch outside of class and then quiz them on the content. This ensures that students don't wait to watch all the videos until right before the certification exam is due.
5) Review that certification materials before each semester
Industry best practices constantly evolve. One of the reasons that I use certifications is so that I can try to stay up on best practices and trends. By reviewing the content before the start of each semester, I have a resource to help me stay up to date. Videos and presentations will be changed and you don't want a student to be the one to tell you that something has changed.
6) Check to see if the certification program has a higher education program and sign up
You don't need to reinvent the wheel. HubSpot has worked with educators in higher education to create some great classroom resources. You can follow their suggested course syllabus or create your own that incorporates some of their materials. Also, by signing up, you ensure that you stay up to date with changes in the program.
If you would like to see how I incorporated HubSpot Inbound Marketing into my Strategic Internet Marketing course, download my course schedule.