Join Aaron and Amber as they discuss the online undergraduate opportunities within the Reed College of Media, specifically the Integrated Marketing Communications program. For anyone considering a role in the communications field, this is a great podcast. Listen in as they talk industry trends and why this program is a great undergraduate introduction to communication initiatives.

Transcript

Hi everyone. And welcome to this week's episode of the Online Roadmap Podcast, which is WVU Online’s podcast series. And today I am joined with Aaron Holly and Aaron is the academic advisor and an instructor in the IMC undergraduate program. So welcome to our show today, Aaron.

Thanks for having me, Amber.

Yeah, we're excited to have you today. So I like our guests to go ahead and just give us a little bit about who they are and what they do. So can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your role with the universe? Absolutely. So I am an alum of the Reed college of media. I got my master's in journalism here in 2011. I was lucky to be hired by the College of Media about a year later, first on the, in their online programs office coordinating online undergraduate programs, which at the time.

Was really just the minor courses and the various minor programs that we offered here in the College of Media and over the last eight or nine years as I've been with my, been with the college, my role has shifted around a little bit as we've continued to develop more online undergraduate programs in addition to adding.

To the course catalog, we also have created an online multidisciplinary media studies degree, and then also our integrated marketing communications undergraduate program. And I'm really the key point of contact for all of those programs. I'm an instructor, I'm an advisor, I'm a, I'm a recruiter.

I'm sort of a one-stop shop for anyone who's interested in online undergraduate education from the Reed College of Media here at WVU. That's good to know. Thank you so much for the introduction, Aaron, can you tell us a little bit more about the integrated marketing communications undergraduate program?

What are some of the courses students take or what can they expect in the program? Sure. So integrated marketing communications is, you know, a trend in communications industries going back about the last 15 or 20 years as you know, different communications roles, whether that's advertising, whether it's public relations, whether it's crisis communication, whether it's internal communication all those roles sort of used to be siloed and used to sort of go off in their own corner.

And. You know, work on their own thing. And as media, as increasingly become more fractured, it's really been essential for brands to be able to speak with a unified voice. You know, nobody cares. You know what he wants a brand to sound different on Facebook than in their radio commercial, then in their print ads then in their, you know, in their TV ads.

So as, as having that unified branding became more and more important to make sure to get a consistent message out across, you know, a fractured media landscape integrated marketing communications really grew as sort of a sector of marketing communications. College of Media was really a. You know, at the forefront of this change.

And we launched our IMC graduate program about 15 years ago, it was the first in the country. It's been a really successful program for us and as it has grown and as the, the IMC concepts have grown. It's become, you know, more and more essential that students get introduced to those concepts in their undergraduate education, as opposed to in their graduate education.

So as our college has adapted and we'll, you know, we always try and be connected to industry trends. We want to prepare our students with a practitioner-based education. We, we are always trying to, you know, stay one step ahead of trends in our industries. And so as our industries have shifted to an IMC approach, so have we.

And so in the case of the bachelor's program, it's, it's you know, undergraduate 120 credit hours degree program it's actually offered in partnership between, between the Reed College of Media and the chambers college of business and economics at WVU. And so what's, you're going to get in this program is you're going to get.

An introduction to all of the different kinds of communications initiatives, those that's everything from advertising to public relations, to marketing, to crisis communication. And you're going to more importantly, understand how all of those different concepts fit together. And so that's, that's what students in this program can expect, you know, Courses and marketing, they can expect courses in advertising in how goods are distributed in business athletics, as well as abroad, undergraduate education, which relies on our general education foundations here at WVU.

They're going to explore social media. They're going to explore writing. They're going to explore design and production for, for different kinds of commercials. And most importantly, they're going to understand how all of those different concepts. Link together into become one integrated marketing communications production for whatever, you know, client or business or organization that the student ends up working for after graduation.

Yeah. That's very cool. So it's, it's interesting to think about, and you know, you have all of these different platforms and mediums and radio, social internet. Gosh, publications, whatever. So really making that one voice and understanding how to write a strategic plan across kind of all of those platforms, right?

I mean, it's, your brand needs to be cohesive and coherent, regardless of where your audience interacts with your brand. What we teach in the IMC program is how to make sure that you're, you know, you have that consistency across all platforms, because we really are, you know, in the 21st century, People get their media and, and from so many different places that you can't have your message changed depending on where somebody encounters it, you have to speak with a unified voice for your brand or else your brand's not going to be successful.

Right. Right. Yeah. So people know what they're looking at when they're looking at it. Very interesting. Very interesting. So the courses in the IMC program, can you tell us a little bit about how those are set up? Are they synchronous where students have to log in at certain days and certain times, or are they asynchronous or maybe they can complete them, you know, during the week where they have time or what does that look like for the program?

So our courses, you know, it's a fully online. For the most part, our courses are asynchronous online courses, meaning that students are responsible for deadlines and they have to get work completed by certain points. However, they don't have to log on a specific day or time. So if you're a working professional and you want to do all of your work from, from six o'clock at night to two o'clock in the morning.

You know, you're able to be successful in this program. Consequently you know, if you're a full-time student and you just want to work on Eric sort of regular nine to five, you can do that as well. It really is a good setup for, to allow the student to integrate the work into their day-to-day life.

Now, not every course in this program is going to be like the one before it, you know, the college of business and the College of Media really do focus on standardizing our courses and making sure that they you know, are in a consistent format. So students know what to expect. But as an online undergraduate program, you're also going to have to take courses.

In other units, you know, like any freshmen at WVU, you're going to have to take English 1 0 1, you're going to have to take science classes. You're gonna have to take a math class. You know, you're, you're really gonna interact with a lot of different subject matter. And, you know, the course design may vary slightly from unit to unit.

But what we really are focusing on especially in our major courses and all the advertising PR and marketing courses that you're gonna encounter in our program, they're going to be. Pretty much a standard asynchronous course where you're going to have a variety of different assignments, but you're not going to have to be online at a specific day or time.

It's not like you're going to have to meet or get on zoom every day at one o'clock. But you will have weekly deadlines that you'll need to meet. So it's not an entirely like a self-paced thing, but it also is not demanding as far as like the specific day or time that you need to be online. And that's how, like, I didn't have my students.

I know you talked a little bit about this, just, just now, but you know, what does a normal week look like for an IMC student? Like, are there typically set numbers of discussions that they have to post? Do they have to, you know, respond to any of their peers or instructors or assignments? Quizzes? What does that look like in the class?

So in most cases, any random week during the semester in one of these courses is probably going to be either a discussion board week or an assignment. And in the case of a discussion board week, you know, by about Tuesday of the week, you would need to respond to the discussion prompt with a in depth well-sourced response to whatever the topic of the week is.

And then by the end of the week, you're going to have to respond to your classmates to you know, a certain number of. Four or five classmates over the course of the discussion, and you're gonna interact with the professor on the discussion board. And that week is really going to be a sort of a give and take between the students and the instructor and the other students in the course to really try and recreate what you would get in a more freewheeling on-campus classroom.

Now on the weeks that aren't discussion weeks, you're going to have either a writing assignment or a test or another project. And obviously like what the assignments are going to vary from course to course, but students can expect to write a lot of short papers in the three to five pages. They can also expect online exams that are going to be, you know assortment of multiple choice, true false short answer questions.

And then as they advanced through the curriculum, as they get up to some of the upper level courses, they're gonna be a little bit more project based. So, you know, you may be building out a strategic communications plan step-by-step in each assignment over the course of the semester. So. There's a variety of different work.

That's going to be required by, by, you know, students in the program, but you know, it's going to vary from course to course, but really generally they can expect each week either to participate in online discussion with their entire class. Or produce a specific piece of work for their professor. Yeah.

I like what you said there about building a strategic plan. So they're actually getting a hands-on experience of, of, you know, building out the plan, not just reading and writing a paper about building a plan. Right. Actually getting in there and getting some time to get to do the work. Okay. Absolutely. I mean, what we really focus on in this program and in our graduate program is a practitioner.

Education. And that's really just a fancy way of saying, giving you the tools and the skills that'll make you successful professionally. So to give you an example, like in our social media courses there's you know, social media has had such an impact on, on marketing and media that you could teach it a lot of different ways.

One way that some folks teach it is they're trying to measure the impact of social media from 10,000 feet. They're trying to measure all of the tweets and all of the campaigns and, and, and, you know, what is everybody saying on Twitter about a certain. We sort of flip that script a little bit and we try and put you in the position of the people who are working in social media for that brand.

So what would their everyday look like? Like if you worked for Delta airlines in a social media function, what's your day to day look like? How are you using those tools to get out and Delta airlines. How are you using those tools to respond to Delta airlines customers? You know, we're not, we don't focus on the theoretical.

You know, we really try and focus on the, on the practical and the kinds of things that you're going to experience. You know, after graduation, once you get out there and working work in the industry, if you're a marketing communications professional, what's your day to day gonna look like what's your boss gonna want from you in order for you to be successful.

And that's really how we design these courses and how we You know, we put the focus on, on tangible skills that you can apply in a professional setting. You know, we're not really concerned with an academic study of the theoretical. We want to know what are you going to do day to day and how can we best prepare you to do that?

Yeah, what a great experience for the students to really get to, to produce, produce things, you know, that are going to benefit them in the future. So I wanted to, when you said that it really like struck, struck a nerve with me, I was like, yes, like that's, that's the direction. So I, I love that you said that.

So switching gears a little bit, I wanted to talk a little bit about tuition because obviously that's an important topic with our students. So can you tell us what the tuition is for the integrated marketing communications undergrad? Sure. So, you know, integrated marketing communications focuses entirely on ROI return on investment.

We're hoping to train students to be able to provide a positive ROI for their employer to get their employer, to invest in marketing communications strategies. And then. Turn a profit on that. And we take the same approach with student tuition. You know, we want our graduates in the IMC undergraduate program to feel like they got a big return on their investment.

And one of the way we've done that because it's a completely online undergraduate program we've managed to come up with a reduced tuition rate that is there's much more than the regular university tuition rate. And so that students can take online courses, but then not pay. For the campus infrastructure that other on-campus students, tuition dollars go to, you know, you're not taking up, you know, we're not using your tuition dollars to build buildings or build dormitories or run dining hall.

You know, we're really using our tuition dollars to build this program. So we do have a resident and non-resident tuition rate except the gap between the two. About $30, which is incredibly low, you know, most regular undergrads is WVU. If you're out of state, you pay a much higher rate than in state. And so we build in about 369 to $399 a credit.

And, and we just build based on how many credits you take. So you know, if you want to speed through the program and. You know, take a lot of classes at once. Your tuition will be higher than if you're just taking you know, one or two classes at a time, but everybody's going to pay that rate between $369 and $399 per credit.

And just really when you're, when you're looking at a. Full 120 credit hours, undergraduate education. Really what that breaks down to is about $44,000 for residents and about $48,000 for non-residents. So if you compare that to the on-campus tuition here at WVU and the online tuition, that a lot of other universities that we think that's really a competitive value that should allow our students to, you know, see a major return on their educational investment.

Yeah, absolutely. And this is funny because it's actually kind of leads into the next question that I was thinking of. Speaking of return on investment, what a career is look like for our undergraduate students, once they graduate you know, what, what jobs would they be looking at? You know, any, you know, the media fields are exploding, right?

Like we, there is more media created in 2021 than there was 10 years ago than there was 10 years before that. So there's really a lot of opportunities once they graduate. And what I love about. The IMC program it's different than a lot of other programs. You know, most majors prepare you to enter a specific field, right?

If you're in the nursing program, you're going to be a nurse, right? Like that's just the way it works. If you're in the physical therapy program, you're going to be a physical therapist, but I can see is less focused on a specific industry and more on a toolbox and skill set of tools. So you can take. The things that we teach you in an IMC program and you can apply it to any industry, right?

There's demands for people with IMC skills in sports, in arts and politics, obviously in business, but also in the nonprofit sector. So like anywhere that you need to communicate value about what it is you do. Your IMC education has been healthy. And so we see a lot of students you know, some of them are just trying to work their way up the ladder in a traditional, like large business.

Other IMC students are trying to start their own business or trying to support their passion, whether it's, you know, arts politics and figuring out how to get their message out. Now one thing I always tell my. You know, social media manager is a job that did not exist when I was in college. I don't like to think I'm so old that I was in college that, you know, there was no social media back then.

And now every company and every organization needs to be able to communicate with an integrated voice in all of these different on all these different platforms. So, you know, social media manager is rapidly growing field. Every organization has to have somebody who. You know, who monitors, how their brand is, is communicated online.

You know, that's a big one, but really, you know, communications professionals exist in every role. You know, every college here at WVU implies communications professionals, everybody from every industry needs them. And I think as media has become more fractured and, and more widespread, and the audience is now segmented and all these sort of tiny, tiny slices all over media.

Having this skillset can really be the sort of professional divider between success and failure. So you know, as far as like specific jobs, you know, social, social media manager, public relations coordinator, press secretary, you know, there's just, there's, there's a lot of opportunities out there.

Marketing research analysts, advertising and promotions manager, search marketing strategists. Everybody needs this skillset in their organization. And so, you know, whatever our students are passionate about, they can carry these skills into that field and I think be successful. Yeah. That's so great information.

Thank you so much for that. So as far as I just wanted to ask about the faculty, so you know, what, what did the faculty look like? Are they, you know, tenured faculty practitioners working in the field? Can you give us any insight into what the faculty member. Yeah. I mean, you know, 120 credit hours over the course of a four-year undergraduate programs about 40 classes.

So you're going to actually encounter faculty of all stripes. Some of these classes are taught by, by tenure track faculty. Some of them are taught by teaching faculty. Some of them were taught by adjunct faculty. And what I can tell you is some of our adjunct faculty are the best instructors we have because.

You know, they are practitioners who are working in the field right now, and they are only teaching one or two classes for us. And, and it is a passion project for them. It's the labor of love. These are folks who are so passionate about their industry or their field that they want to reach back and give a hand up to, you know, the next generation of folks in that field.

And so, you know, you know, students in the undergraduate IMC program, we're going to get exposed to every kind of faculty that you can imagine. And, you know, some of them are, again, going to be more traditional tenured research faculty, but others are going to be folks who are in it, just because they're passionate about young people and want to help them succeed.

And, you know, I, I feel like in a professional program like this. You need to know that, right? Like you can't, you have to rely on, on folks who have their, you know, their boots on the ground right now to inform the next generation of the changes. Cause when, when you're talking about a communications field, you're talking about media and media has just changed so rapidly over the last 15 years that you want people who are out there in the trenches right now so that our students can keep up with all those.

Yeah, I think it's really good to have such a well-rounded group for the students. So you're kind of getting the experience and knowledge from all facets, right? Absolutely. So I think that's really beneficial. So Aaron, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today and I just have one final question and this is kind of.

Something I like to ask all of our guests, but do you have a piece of advice that you'd like to offer an online undergraduate integrated marketing communications student? Well, you know, I would just say that make sure that online education is right for you. You know, online education is one of those things that if it can mess with your life in a way that works for you, then it can be incredibly beneficial.

Like, you know, it's not a wonder tonic, but I think that if you're one of those folks, especially someone who's maybe been out of college for a while maybe took a stab at, you know, a four-year degree, but then life got in the way. You know, an integrated marketing communications degree can really help you take your career to the next level.

And also it can, can, you know, give you a foot in the door and exciting and ever-changing field. You know, I never tell students that. They need to do what I want them to do. You know, I want students to tell me what I can, can help them with and how I can give them a little better, whether that means, you know, coming into our IMC program or, or finding a program that works for them.

You know, I truly believe that education is intensely personal. So anyone who's interested. In IMC and wants to reach out to me. I'd be happy to talk to, but you know, I do think that the skill set that we offer an IMC is so versatile and so applicable in so many situations that, you know, an IMC education is right for a lot of people.

And, and, and if you're considering it, I would love to hear from you. That's great. Thank you so much, Aaron. We really appreciate you taking the time to meet with us today and go over some of the ins and outs of the IMC undergrads. So thank you so much. No problem. Thanks for having me. All right. And we will see you guys next time on the Online Roadmap Podcast.