Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing: Our Students on the New Frontier

Getting an edge on the Internet.

There’s no question about it — the successful marketers of the twenty-first century must be masters of the digital arena. Last fall, the School of Business and Economics offered its first digital marketing class to help students gain an edge on the Internet.

True to its subject, the class was taught almost entirely online by instructor Cindy McColley, manager of digital advertising for General Motors service and parts operations. McColley drew on more than twenty years of marketing experience to make sure that students knew the ins and outs of the emerging forms of media that are changing the way the world communicates.

McColley began her teaching by delivering four online sessions in spring 2009 as part of Alan Brokaw’s Consumer Behavior class. She welcomed the opportunity to work with Michigan Tech students again when Dean Radson invited her to develop a full course on digital marketing.

“Students who attain an understanding of digital marketing are going to be ahead of those who do not,” she said.

McColley said that students cannot underestimate how important the digital realm has become to the marketing profession. The skills she taught in the digital marketing class would benefit anyone who is interested in promoting their work and products, from entrepreneurs to engineers.

“If someone is in the market for anything—for any product or service—they’re online,” McColley said. “Everything has to be marketed, so everyone can benefit from understanding digital marketing. If you become a doctor, you have to understand how to market your services.

“As part of the class learning objectives, I think it’s very important to provide students with hands-on experience to learn how to market on the Internet,” McColley said.

McColley, who is based in the Detroit area, met with her students face-to-face during a campus visit this fall.

Using Blackboard educational software and a blog that McColley set up for the class, students explored the ever-expanding world of digital media, from the professional networking site LinkedIn to the streaming video hub Hulu. The class kicked off with an online scavenger hunt that sent students scrambling all over the web for information.

In addition to their online work, students also gained real-life experience as digital marketers. They worked in teams with four start-up companies, including one that was founded by a recent Michigan Tech graduate, to create digital marketing plans that met these fledgling businesses’ needs.

The teams presented their plans not just to the business owners but also to several heavyweights in the realm of digital marketing. Professionals from Google, Yahoo, Digitas, and SMG judged the Internet marketing plans.

As the students interacted with McColley and each other in person and online, they shaped the body of knowledge, à la Wikipedia, that will inform future digital marketing classes, she said.

“They became contributors to the learning,” McColley said. “As the students posted on my blog, they created new insights. That’s one of the reasons why the online community is so valuable.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.