Long-time readers of this blog know that I use the Hootsuite University certification program in my social media class.
Having students complete industry certifications are a great way to get students gaining hands-on experience with industry tools. Also, they extend the classroom and free up more time in class because many of the certification programs are self directed. That means, students complete them on their own time via following video demonstrations or lectures and completed a certification test or quiz outside of the classroom.
Certifications are also cool because they offer students resume-building credibility. Having done research with other scholars on perceptions of the Hootsuite certification among potential employers, I know that employers appreciate such certifications.
So what other certifications are there available that can help our students prepare for the digital workplace?
This question came up in a recent discussion on the Social Media professors community group on Facebook. Many online learning tools or certifications were mentioned including Twitter Flight School (this is new to me, I’m going to have to check it out!), Google Adwords, and Google Analytics (I did this a few years back but alas, it has expired). I’m bringing in a few Facebook Blueprint courses into my writing class this semester. Though a full certification is beyond the scope of what we’re doing.
The Hubspot Academy offers several free online certifications that generally span a few hours and require passing an online exam to earn certification.
Currently, the courses that are free and which I believe may be interested to social media students include:
- Inbound Certification
- Email Marketing
- Content Marketing
See the full list of Hubspot certification courses.
Thus far, I have completed the inbound certification which was 12 video lectures across 4.5 hours and an exam that took about 45 minutes to complete.
The inbound marketing course provides a broad overview of subjects from SEO to creating content to solve customer needs, to building lead pages to the basics of email marketing, and beyond. The purpose of the course is to introduce the student to the inbound marketing method. While inbound marketing isn’t directly tied to what I teach, many of the concepts are salient.
For example, I was able to augment my discussion of SEO in my writing class with content from the Hubspot course. I was able to introduce students to the buyer’s journey as a consideration when crafting topic ideas and doing keyword research. It was a greater refresher for many of the concepts we already discuss around keywords.
(Buyer’s journey image above is from HubSpot cited above)
With all of that said, I had thought it was best to start with the inbound certification before proceeding to the other courses. Though, I’m not sure if that was necessary. Now, I wish I had jumped ahead to content marketing or email. It was my initial intention to assign students the inbound certification as an extra credit opportunity in my writing class. However, I’ve decided not to. The reason for that is that the last few hours of the program are more focused on dealing with leads and sales. This information was great for me to learn about for a variety of reasons. But it was not particularly relevant for the purpose of my class. Given the level of commitment to earn the inbound certification, I don’t think it is a prudent use of students’ time in my writing class when there are many other things they can be learning.
Still, I’m glad that I completed this course. It gave me a great insight into the inbound marketing strategies that are used on us every day by online marketers. And having that knowledge, I believe, will make me a smarter and more critical consumer of online content. It has already helped me in crafting my own content. My hope is that the email marketing and content marketing certifications cover some of this useful content. If not, I may encourage students to enroll and at least complete the first 6 or so courses.
I’m hoping to find some time to complete the email marketing and content marketing certifications. I want to go through the certifications myself before possibly assigning them to students. My thinking is that the email marketing might fit in my Writing Across Platforms course. The content marketing may fit in that class or the social media class.
There’s only so much time in the semester, as one contributor stated in the Facebook discussion. With assignment creep a growing struggle for many of us as educators, it is a challenge to decide what to assign to students and what not to. With so many options and opportunities out there, I think we should be careful not to throw stuff at students in a horse race mentality.
From what I’ve heard, several professors are offering either extra credit or encouraging students to do some extra education outside of the classroom through such self-directed programs like HubSpot or Google academy. I may take this tact with future certification opportunities.
While altogether, I didn’t get as much value out of this course as I had hoped from the standpoint of being able to offer new training to my students, I would encourage any social media professor to complete the course if time is available. If you teach more on the PR side than the marketing side, as I do, it is very helpful to get a deeper look into the marketing and sales side. It is very important for us to have that perspective. Most importantly, if writing for the web, SEO and keyword research are new for you or are areas you’d like to get a greater understanding of, definitely take this course.