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Teaching the Connected Consumer in Higher Education

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In past posts, I've explored the Connected Consumer and how they share their daily experiences via mobile and social. I turn now to innovations in educating today's connected student. As a Ph.D. student in marketing, I have been extremely fortunate that I teach and learn in a cutting-edge facility with forward-thinking administrators. From the curriculum our students follow to the building in which they learn, everything has been designed for today's connected student and their learning style. The two trends I study, social media and mobile technology, have been embraced and integrated into the student experience.

Here are four key areas where the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University empowers the connected consumer:

Interactivity in Lectures. Dr. Debra Laverie, Sr. Associate Dean, is responsible for the integration of polling technology in the classrooms that allows instructors survey students during lectures to gauge mastery of course content. Using inexpensive remote "clickers" or Android or iOS smartphone apps, students are able to anonymously respond with their proposed answers to in-lecture questions; this provides a non-threatening way for students to vote for their answers, and the instructor immediately knows which questions are not clear. Laverie explains, "Often, students may be shy about speaking out in class. The interactive technology allows us to engage students through technology they know and use daily, their smartphone. This interaction allows our faculty to understand student mastery as the lectures proceed. There is no guesswork as to what is unclear to the students."

Teaching Social. In addition to a prominent social media effort by the College on Facebook and Twitter, social media has been integrated into both undergraduate and graduate courses. For example, in the College's mandatory Introduction to Business Professionalism course and in all MBA orientation sessions, I teach an online personal branding lecture. This module teaches students how to position themselves professionally online in the competitive job market. Further, social media marketing is integrated into core marketing classes, including consumer behavior. While much has been said in the business media about the lack of social media education and content in top programs, Texas Tech has been forward thinking in embracing social media marketing topics into existing foundational courses.

A Social Pedagogy. In addition to teaching social media, Rawls College faculty has researched the impact of social media as part of the classroom experience. Dr. Shannon Rinaldo, Assistant Professor of Marketing, along with Laverie and Suzanne Tapp, Director of Teaching & Learning Professional Development Center, published research related to outcomes of student social media usage in Consumer Behavior classes. They found that students who used Twitter as part of class realized higher achievement in learning objectives. In later research (on which I collaborated), the use of Twitter also was related to better performance (higher grades) in the course. In the Marketing Promotion class I teach, it's not uncommon for students to tweet examples of good and bad advertising. One student even remarked that if she was tweeting her instructor with examples after midnight, she knew she had chosen the right major, indicating her engagement with the class continued long after class time.

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While many faculty may avoid social media, research undertaken at the Rawls College of Business indicates that positive learning outcomes are possible with social media interaction within a class.

Adoption of Mobile. Students and administrators alike have adopted the mandatory of mobile technology. The College website redirects to a mobile site when a mobile browser is detected. Additionally, the College introduced QR codes throughout its new facility, which opened in 2012. Down every hall, QR codes lead to landing pages focusing on variety of topics, such as information on faculty chair donors, the history of the College, location maps, and other interactive features. In addition, mobile social networks are in use by the student body. As students heavily use Foursquare, the College has added tips to improve student life, such as how to use print kiosk technology or features of the LEED-certified building.

One reason I left industry is the need for research and teaching on mobile technology and social media in marketing. I am heartened that I am seeing deep integration of both into the student experience and faculty research. Rawls Dean, Dr. Lance Nail, sums up "The faculty and staff in Rawls have embraced the technology that allows for efficiency in pedagogy, delivery, learning outcomes, and communications with stakeholders. This leads to richer learning experiences for students and new research opportunities for faculty to expand our understanding of business practices."