Getting Schooled In Digital Marketing

Can you learn cross-channel marketing in college?

Two schools of thought exist on the value of higher education. Some say practicing on the job and refreshing with spot training is the only way to keep current in the ever-changing world of digital marketing.

Others like the classroom experience as a way to put all the pieces together. And the elevation of digital from a tactic to a way of doing business requires much higher-level thinking.

With an obvious bias toward issuing degrees, Temple University says more than 13,000 open digital marketing positions now require a master’s degree.

Its Fox School of Business in Philadelphia introduced a Masters in Digital Innovation when it saw an opportunity to teach skills that bridge the worlds of IT and marketing. Students come from both sides.

The 16-month program originated in the Management Information Systems department. A part-time program, it is designed to work for people who have jobs and is conducted entirely online. Its first class will graduate this year after completion of a final project.



The program offers both strategy and practical application. Courses include information technology management, digital marketing, data analytics, digital business and brand management, user experience design, social innovation and mobile marketing strategy.

An advisory board of digital leaders from both the agency and corporate sides — including Publicis, Johnson & Johnson, WarbyParker and Cigna — make sure the program is in touch with the real world. (Full disclosure: I participate on the council, which includes running webinars for students and engaging in the online community.)

Are students able to apply the training in their day jobs? (For those who can’t get corporate reimbursement, the 10-course curriculum costs upwards of $30,000.)

Roman Nicholas works for Campbell Soup in the digital marketing technology group supporting the brands. He says it’s more than worth it.

“Having the foundational knowledge in technology is one thing, but now having an understanding of how a marketer and IT can work together is another. I am now able to speak both languages,” he says. “I have been able to break through to the marketing team.”

Most valuable are the business intelligence skills he says he’s developed.

“The ability to utilize data, find trends, and apply it to brand strategy or creating a campaign around the data is so powerful. I was also able to get certified in Google Analytics within the program.”

But it’s more than the classes and the new marketing lens he’s acquired.

“It’s about building a community of like-minded people who have a passion for learning,” Nicholas adds. “I’ve gained many new friends from a dozen different industries. It’s great to be able to grow as a class together, and be the leaders in innovating the future.”

Jennie Nguyen handles email marketing, publications, branding and Web site design for Temple’s Continuing Education division. She came to the program with a background in visual design and communication. She says the program has given her an informed decision-making process to bring around colleagues who are hesitant to adapt to digital.

“I feel more empowered to tackle projects to create an effective digital presence,” she says, noting that the 100% online environment originally concerned her, but now seems apropos for the pace and energy of the Internet. She hopes the program will lead her into user-experience design, front- end development or Web design.

What other programs would you recommend?

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