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East Tennessee State Teams with Private Partner To Impart Digital Marketing Skills

A single-minded professor at East Tennessee State University has persuaded a publishing software company to team up with his institution in an alliance that will result in on-campus learning experiences for students, digital marketing curriculum for educators and a revamp of the university's website infrastructure, among other changes.

Stephen Marshall, chair of the university's Department of Mass Communications and a digital strategist and brand expert for media agency Creative Energy, approached Adobe with a proposal to give his students access to several of its Marketing Cloud services, programs that are in use by industry leaders, including fast food chains, carmakers and manufacturers.

He was motivated by his own frustration as an instructor. "Nobody is teaching these solutions as part of course work," he said. "I was using a lot of tools in my consulting life that I didn't have in the classroom, and I wasn't able to teach without some serious 'rigging.' I got frustrated with that. I feel like the time has come for students to get their hands on this stuff."

Marshall compared the intent of the new program to what happened in graphical design courses during an earlier era as companies made the transition to programs such as PhotoShop. "Education said, 'Wow! We need to start teaching this.'" As a result, he noted, now nobody would go to a photography class or graphical design class "without somebody teaching PhotoShop."

Starting in the fall students will gain access to four of the company's digital marketing tools: Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Analytics, Adobe Social and Adobe Target. For example, Marshall noted, a public relations writing class might incorporate assignments that require students to use Experience Manager, its content management system, to post content online; Analytics to measure its performance; Target to optimize the content for specific audiences; and Social to promote it on the department's social channels.

He said he expects much of the content development within courses to help the department itself with its own outreach efforts by generating material that will be shared and amplified through the use of the Adobe tools. A by-product will be more student attention. "It's going to be something that's published on our website, so it's got to be good," he said. "It raises the bar."

On top of that, the department will begin offering elective courses that bring small teams of students together under faculty guidance to provide digital marketing services to university offices, such as admissions, advancement and athletics.

"It's primarily an opportunity for students to be able to practice on these solutions before they leave the university and to have public-facing work that they can show a potential employer," explained Marshall. "We feel [this] will be a very amazing opportunity that will differentiate them in the marketplace — especially since there's no other university that's teaching enterprise-level marketing solutions in the country right now."

That could change, however. Marshall is working with the company's global training services to develop curriculum that Adobe would eventually share with other institutions. Although that appears to be in an early stage yet, Marshall said he would expect to see some kind of deliverable from those efforts by the end of the first year of the partnership.

Marshall's ambitions don't stop with his own department. Under the terms of the alliance, whose details haven't been shared, in time the entire campus will adopt the Adobe digital marketing tools, starting with use of the Adobe content management system. During a news conference on the announcement, university CIO, Karen King, reported on plans to shift the infrastructure of the university website to Adobe Marketing Cloud.

The university also foresees opportunities for campus publications and research. "We have a lot of people on campus that are excited about transitioning traditional print publications to digital publications and being able to measure readership and interest in different articles," Marshall said. On the research front, the school expects academics to pick up on the use of the Adobe tools for interdisciplinary collaboration. One scenario would be the social scientist who needs to do an A/B split of content to understand why people respond differently to one type of content than to the other. "Adobe Target is a fantastic tool for that," he said.

"A lot of what our campus is excited about is just around the idea that we're going to be bringing these amazing digital experiences to our students," he added. "This experiential learning process will serve as an excellent transition into the job market where these skills are currently in high demand across the nation."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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