A Graduate Degree in Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter?
The internet has been abuzz the last couple of days after UK-based Birmingham City University announced it would offer a master’s degree level program in social media.
Eyebrows have been raised and critics on both sides of the concept have been weighing in on the idea that college students could soon be able to earn a graduate degree based on their knowledge and ability to use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Bebo.
The one-year course in social media will explain how to set up blogs and publish podcasts in addition to focusing on social networking sites as communications and marketing tools.
The designer of the program, Jon Hickman offered the following insights to the British media:
“During the course we will consider what people can do on Facebook and Twitter, and how they can be used for communication and marketing purposes. It’s not for freaks or IT geeks, the tools learned in this course will be accessible to many people.”
Required to conform to university academic standards, the course will “entail synoptic research and scholarly activity,” two fundamental criteria for approval for a Masters level program. The new concept will feature a mixture of lectures, seminars, research workshops, presentations and field-trips.
To earn a masters in social media, students will have to complete either a social media production project or an original piece of research in the form of a 15000-word dissertation.
The Basis for Providing a Program
As for a rationale for a graduate program in social media, Hickman went on to add:
“It’s very relevant and very scholarly. It’s a new course, but its importance is unquestionable.
“Social media is very important for jobs within the marketing and communications sector, as a skill set within other jobs, and as an industry within itself.”
Hickman is not the first to propose the future importance of social media. Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State, has often advocated that Facebook could be a useful tool in the educational setting.
Well-known for a number of YouTube videos that have taken the internet by storm, Wesch offers that as a university professor he has found Facebook to be very useful.
The professor understood long ago that Facebook was not only a great tool for expressing a person’s identity and sharing that identity with friends, the site provided all the tools necessary to create an online learning community.
Based on Wesch’s support for the use of Facebook, some have postured that all teacher training programs should involve some instruction in social media.
However, the Birmingham program will focus more on the business use of social media and using this new technology for commercial gain. Information available at the school’s web page also notes the new MA program will not only explore the techniques of social media as a creative industry but will seek to contribute new research and knowledge as to other potential uses for these networking sites.
Many Questioning the Instructional Value
Naturally, there are critics of the new program. Many people see social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace as nothing more than off-task behavior for today’s net generation. These critics find the idea that colleges have begun offering courses in social media nothing short of appalling.
At the same time, the generation that has become dubbed as digital natives is wondering why anyone would need a course to learn how to socialize on Facebook or converse with Twitter. After announcing the program, Hickman could find a number of blogs that were insisting that the program as constructed was too basic.
In addition, there was a question as to who would teach these courses as there certainly can not be any credentialed college professors who themselves have earned a degree in the social networking field. That led some to postulate that the students in the program would likely know more than those responsible for course instruction.
Indeed with such a cutting-edge program, knowledge would appear to be developing every day – in fact, as yet another critic postulated, the developments in social media are occurring so rapidly the program will likely be out-of-date before the first graduating class heads off into the sunset.
More details on the university set to break the mold are available here.