The average college-aged student has likely grown up in the digital age, probably learned to type on a laptop, used the Internet for most of their education, and adopted every social media platform that came on the scene. That’s not always the case with adult learners – busy working professionals who often have little time to catch on to the latest web trends.
That’s not to say working professionals and adult learners are at all technologically antiquated. This is the generation responsible for many of the innovative technology advances we use every day. The fastest growing segment of social media users is the older-than-50 crowd, but having a personal Facebook page is not the same as maximizing social media potential in a business setting.
Recognizing the need to equip students with the relevant skills to use social media on the job, universities are offering degree programs and courses in social media, including the online MBA in social media launched this year at Excelsior College.
Excelsior College, formerly known as Regents College, is a private, not-for-profit distance learning institution based in Albany, New York. The school is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Online MBA program has an enrollment of 544 students. The average age of an MBA student at Excelsior is 40, with 61.8% men and 38.1% women, 38.6% minorities, 29% active military, and 16.7% veterans.
The MBA program requires between 33 and 48 credits, depending on the student’s prior academic record. Students without an educational background in business may be required to take five foundation courses, which may be waived depending on experience. Excelsior accepts transfers of up to 24 approved credits. Per-credit tuition for all graduate courses is $515, but discounts are available for military students and through particular corporate partnerships. The GMAT is not required for admission.
Online students benefit from student support resources such as a team of academic advisors, an engaged alumni network, online veteran center and career counseling, and the Excelsior College Online Writing Lab.
Dr. Jane LeClair, dean of the Excelsior College School of Business and Technology, discusses Excelsior’s online MBA program and its courses in social media.
Q: This program was introduced this year. What prompted the school to launch a social media online MBA?
LeClair: Social media may be a new field of academic study, but most would agree that it is an essential part of any contemporary business toolkit. Successful future business leaders will need a practical understanding of social media to not only put a strategy and governance model in place that will push the company forward, but also to mitigate risk. And I think we’ve seen the damage that can be done to a company’s brand when employees or even corporate leaders are given the keys to the Twitter or Facebook account without proper training.
Q: What makes your social media MBA unique?
LeClair: There are actually very few MBA programs that offer social media concentrations. Faculty at Excelsior that are currently teaching within the concentration consist of academics with real-world experience who have used social media successfully in the business environment.
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Q: What is the curriculum like? What kinds of projects do students complete?
LeClair: As with any MBA program, courses within the social media concentration will require a variety of readings, written and audio lectures, and peer-to-peer as well as instructor-student online discussion. Weekly written assignments, case studies, and research aim to challenge the student to think critically about the lecture topics, whether that be marketing, social media measurement, branding, community management, or creating a social media policy and governance structure within an organization or business. Students are also encouraged to create their own social media accounts, interact with their classmates, and discuss how they are applying the concepts in class each week.
Q: Was this a popular concentration this year?
Le Clair: Students are definitely excited. They understand that business leaders of the future will need to have a background and understanding in social media. It’s not something that can be “winged.” Every business must have a social strategy for success.
The introductory class in the concentration, “Social Media Principles, Strategies and Community Management” was first offered earlier this year. The September term has 20 enrolled students, full-capacity for a course at Excelsior. The second class in the concentration, “Social Media Marketing, Social Media Marketing Strategies and Campaigns”, develops students’ ability to strategically create and implement an effective social media marketing campaign. And “Social Media: Metrics,” our third course in the concentration, prepares students to assess the current state of measurement—the issues, problems, resolution and means of being employed in the social media campaign.
Q: How has the program progressed so far?
LeClair: Students are definitely engaged in the material, and judging by the increasing enrollment numbers, word of mouth is positive. We are always looking to improve. The feedback from students this year will definitely shape the course moving forward, which is the way it should be. Social media is fluid and constantly evolving, as are our teaching methods and strategies.
Q: What changes do you plan to make for future semesters?
LeClair: Adult learners want practical knowledge, not just theory. They want to know the why and the how, so they can apply them to their current jobs. We will continue to focus on integrating more hands-on applications, simulations and projects.
Q: Describe the faculty who teach in this program. What kind of real-world experience do they have in social media?
LeClair: Faculty [members] teaching in the program have a wide range of real world experience in addition to their academic background. Academic background is generally in marketing and public relations, with current social media strategies being used in their day-to-day work. Our instructors are often presenters at national and international conferences in the area of social media, as well as consultants to various firms developing social media strategies and campaigns for these organizations.
Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion on Twitter @elisermarrion.