Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Moving Participation beyond the Classroom: Who Benefits from Online Social Communities?

Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

Moving Participation beyond the Classroom: Who Benefits from Online Social Communities?

Article excerpt


As social media continue to evolve and dominate digital communication, it is critical for advertising educators to consider how these technologies can be leveraged to enhance student learning and course outcomes. And while it is tempting for an instructor to chase new technologies in an effort to stay relevant and upto-date with a new generation of students, it is important to make sure that pedagogy is leading technology decisions, rather than technology dictating pedagogy (Beard & Yang, 2011).

Research has shown that attention spans for college students are quite limited, perhaps less than ten minutes, yet many universities create course schedules which meet once a week for two to three hours at a time (Middendorf & Kalish, 1996). Although fewer class meetings often accommodate the busy lifestyles of modem-day students, there is a predictable challenge for course instructors to maintain continuity throughout the term or semester. Too often student engagement is limited to just the class session itself or, on those occasions when there is an exam scheduled or an assignment due, engagement is extended to the cramming session just prior to the class. This 'here-today, gone-tomorrow' mentality leads many college educators to embrace social media platforms as a pedagogical tool and as a way to maintain a consistent course narrative from one week to the next. Furthermore, engaging students via social media often allows them to connect course material to real world examples and establish a forum to discuss other related topics of interest (Gale & Kreshel, 2006; Wetsch, 2012).

During the spring of 2013, the lead author created a social media requirement for all students in two sections of an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) course, both of which met a single day each week. The grading structure for the course stipulated that 10% of the total points possible would be allocated toward in-class participation and another 10% would be based on social media contributions in a private Google+ community. The objective of the online community requirement was threefold. First, there was a desire to engage students with the subject matter on a more frequent basis than simply during the weekly class meeting time. Secondly, it was conjectured that an online forum would allow a secondary venue for students to share their views and opinions. While certain personality characteristics and other social dynamics may affect one's willingness to speak in public, the asynchronous interaction of Google+ was thought to be a more conducive space for thoughtful discussion for some students. Lastly, the instructor wanted students to engage in extracurricular readings of important industry related content online, such as Advertising Age, Forrester, Mashable and ComScore, and relate their insights from these sources to class discussion.

The following discussion provides an overview on the subject matter from within the marketing education and college pedagogy literature. This article also provides an examination of the actual participation of 61 students in the two arenas (face-to-face and online) and attempts to explain the different categories of demonstrated behavior. In addition, the paper offers insight and considerations for instructors exploring social media alternatives.

Literature Review

Classroom discussion and participation are often considered traditional instructional tools of the college/university classroom (Davis, 1993; Sautter, 2007). A student's in-class engagement not only requires a certain level of metacognition with course content, but it also demands a range of skills for knowledge transfer that allows a student to respond appropriately (i.e., in just the right way, at just the right time) (Ramocki, 2007). Articulating complex ideas, building consensus, answering objections, synthesizing similarity and difference, and adding humor or irony are all important for higher-order learning outcomes in Bloom's taxonomy (e. …

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