How to Teach Digital Marketing to University Students

How to Teach Digital Marketing to University Students

Ask any student how they feel about marketing textbooks and you’ll get the same answer: they are darn boring! All those theories with nothing but a few practical examples scattered around… that’s not fun to read! The students get a case study or two, but everything is written in an outdated, boring format that’s based on the traditional way to transfer theoretical knowledge. 

Of course; theories are important. That’s the foundation of marketing education, and all practices are built upon that foundation. But when you have so many options to make digital marketing education more approachable and fun, why wouldn’t you make an attempt to do so?

University professors know that traditional teaching methods no longer work. When they teach marketing, they have to bring technology and practical work into the process. 

Let’s see how you can do that. 


Tips for Teaching Marketing to University Students

Experiential Learning Is the Key Approach

Today’s students expect highly engaging methods of education. The didactic approach, which was the golden standard in lecture halls around the world, is no longer applicable to marketing education. 

Christy Price, a psychology professor at Dalton State College, analyzed the learning behavior of Millennials and came down to a few important conclusions:

  • They prefer active learning methods based on research. They learn more effectively when the professor stimulates them to conduct research and form conclusions, when compared to the old-school approach of processing information that they get during a lecture. 
  • Millennials want to learn relevant things. If the professor doesn’t relate marketing theories to examples from current culture, they won’t be interested in the lecture. 
  • They want a less formal educational environment. Today’s students want to interact with their professors. 

What does this teach us?

Instead of teaching lectures, the professor should only give hints and encourage the students to conduct research. They can give recommendations for exploring marketing examples from popular culture. When the students conduct research, they can discuss the results in a laid-back manner, through fun presentations and discussions. 

The teacher should also encourage the students to learn through practical projects. We’re not talking about essays and research papers. Let’s get to that point. 


Group Projects Are Better than Essays

Essays are not relatable to the future of a marketing student. They are writing essay for scholarships and university applications because they have to. But when they start attending courses and the professors demand more essays, it’s a huge disappointment. 

The format of these assignments is outdated. We can’t expect students to be excited about researching real cases of marketing and writing about them in the stiff 5-paragraph form. We have to make assignments more exciting for them. 

Team projects are much better! You can ask the students to partner up by their own choice. They will investigate a particular marketing campaign in depth, and they will present their findings through a PowerPoint presentation. This is the type of practical research that makes a real difference in their knowledge. 

To make things even more fun, you can ask the teams to come up with their own marketing strategy and execute it throughout the semester. For example, they can start their Facebook or Instagram pages on any topic and try to get as many followers as possible. Then, they will discuss their methods in front of the class. They will figure out what worked and what didn’t work. They will get inspired by the practices of other groups, so they will do things differently for their next project.  


Online Learning Is Great! 

It’s no secret that when the students don’t get what they need at university, they turn to eLearning for digital marketing. Google offers awesome courses through its Digital Academy. Most universities share their courses through Coursera and similar platforms. So if you fail to deliver what they expect, they will find a way to get the knowledge. But for a professor, that’s a failure. 

That’s why you should make all your lectures fit this format that students are looking for. They want to access the lessons at their own pace. Instead of taking notes in class, they would love to access the same lecture online when it’s studying time. 

Do your best to create a curriculum that’s suitable for an online course. Then, share all lessons on YouTube or any other platform, so your students will listen to them. This is how you share knowledge beyond the lecture hall, and you provide a more accessible lesson format for your students. 


Teach Content Marketing

Your students have to be aware of the classic marketing theories, so of course you’ll cover the marketing mix theory, Ansoff’s matrix theory, and all other traditional methods that still work to some extent. 

However, you also have to teach about contemporary marketing and compare it to the traditional methods that were used in the past. 

When your students get out of those desks, they will probably engage in content marketing strategies. You want to prepare them for that future. They should know all theories and practices, but they should also be encouraged to follow new trends and experiment with their own ideas. 

You can discuss the most interesting current cases of content marketing in the lecture hall. Ask your students to do their research and suggest discussion starters. You can create a private Facebook group for the students to join, so you can take this discussion there. 


Make Them Skilled at Analytics

Does your course cover digital marketing analytics? It has to! Without the right tools and strategies for analyzing the results, a marketing campaign is never complete. Current and future marketing experts must monitor the performance of their campaigns all the time. 

Teach your students how to use the most important tools, such as Google Analytics and Kissmetrics. Assign them projects that include creating a marketing strategy and analyzing its results with these tools. Becoming a great marketer is all about the experience. If university doesn’t provide that experience, what’s the point of getting a degree in marketing? 

Make your classes useful. Teaching analytics is a must!


Students Expect a Lot; We Have to Deliver!

Marketing is not taught through books and lectures. The students have to know some theory, so they will understand the psychology of buyers. However, they won’t care to memorize all this information just to do well on an exam. The professor should inspire them to implement theory into practice, so they have to shift the type of projects they assign. 

Did you get any great ideas on how to make your next lecture more interesting? You can start by assigning a team project that triggers an experiential learning process. Then, your students will analyze the results and you’ll discuss them together in class.      


Elizabeth Skinner is a blogger and marketing expert. She’s worked on dozens of social media marketing campaigns for well-established brands on the U.S. market. Through the content she shares online, Elizabeth offers tips on how to become better at digital marketing.