Each semester, I like to highlight something that I’m doing different in one of my classes (for example, see last Fall’s What’s Changing post).
This semester, I’d like to highlight my Writing Across Platforms class (the syllabus is at the bottom of this post). I’ve been teaching this class every spring for the last few years. So, what’s changing?
There are two super awesome things I’m very excited about. Both of them are part of an effort to strengthen the emphasis on writing for hypertargeted, niche audiences online as well as an effort to provide more experiences for students that break down the walls of the classroom. I want to help my students get their work in front of more eyes and have better things to add to their portfolio.
The first new project is that my class will be teaming up with an up and coming niche publication that describes itself as ‘a social news and entertainment platform.’ The owner and editor of the publication will be visiting our class to discuss the publication and the sort of content he is looking for. Using these guidelines, students will be tasked with creating content that the owner will have the option to publish. Therefore, students will be incentivized to give their best as the opportunity to earn a byline on this site would be a great line on their resume! It will be a challenge for students to essentially work for an editor and face the editor’s decisions, in addition to getting a grade from their professor.
But before students have this opportunity, they will go through another exciting challenge that will help them prepare. Students will be creating BuzzFeed articles via the BuzzFeed community. I am super stoked about this assignment! Students are going to not only have a chance to create a piece of content that – well, honestly – might actually be read by a sizable audience as opposed to just me, but they’ll also be working to promote and track the post’s metrics.
I first heard about the assignment a few years ago from Tweeting with Scott Cowley. Scott is a marketing Ph.D. student at ASU, a super nice guy, and a rising star. He published his BuzzFeed Valentine’s assignment. And I’ve been wanting to try it ever since. On his website, Scott lets you download the assignment itself and see his slides on how he set it up. Scott also wrote a great article detailing the assignment on Mark W. Schaefer’s blog (I’ve reviewed a few of Mark’s books on this blog. And Mark has been a guest lecture in my social media class).
I’m going to vary the assignment slightly from what Scott did. While Scott’s assignment focuses on Valentine’s Day, my students will be creating content around spring break. This is a bit of a risk and simply a matter of timing for my syllabus. I will be sure to write a post later in the semester about how the experiment goes.
What Did I Shift Around to Add These Assignments?
You’re probably wondering what I had to drop from prior semesters to fit these new assignments in. This class is, after all, packed with things to cover.
In the past, such as in my Spring 2015 syllabus, I have had a blogging assignment where students picked an organization of their choice. They created a content calendar of blog posts and social media posts. And then they wrote the 5 blog posts as though they represented that organization. In short, this was the assignment I did to focus on content marketing.
This semester, I am dropping the blogging part of this. I’ve also pulled back on the desktop layout requirements of my white paper assignment. I used to require students to learn basic desktop layout in Apple Pages during the last few days of classes while working on their white paper. I was never very pleased with this aspect of the assignment. It isn’t about writing, for one. Though, I wanted students to at least have some exposure to basic layout. That portion will be covered elsewhere in our department (I think we all face these sorts of issues. There is so much we want to cover and so little time. We sometimes try to force something in. We try to be superhero professors. 🙂 And, we are better off offering depth at the expense of breadth sometimes). With those days freed up, there will be more time to focus on these new assignments.
Here is the Spring 2016 Syllabus for my Writing Across Platforms course.