After going to university to get her International Business Management and Administration degree, Tsvetelina Stoykova still wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to pursue as a career.
“The most important thing for me was my confidence level,” Stoykova says of her decision to enroll in Sheridan’s Business Administration – Marketing diploma program. “In my previous education, it was more about theory and not so much about application.”
That type of uncertainty after graduation is precisely what Sheridan’s Pilon School of Business (PSB) hopes to address by introducing an innovative digital learning platform for its marketing diploma and advanced diploma programs. Fourth-semester students now have the opportunity to work on real-life websites that feature social media integration and customer relationship management (CRM) software, thanks to a partnership with inbound marketing giant HubSpot.
“We’ve switched the focus from ‘what’ to ‘how’.” – Dr. Sujinda-Hwang Leslie
Making digital marketing ‘real’
Designed by PSB program co-ordinator Dr. Sujinda Hwang-Leslie and professor Garrett Hall, the new approach simulates work that digital marketers perform in today’s business world. “A theory lesson in class might seem to go smoothly, but then you’d find that students had a difficult time completing a simple assignment,” says Hall, whose 30-year marketing career includes 13 years as president of The Added Touch online catalogue. “There’s still a magic buzz around digital marketing. We’ve demystified it and made it real.” Adds Dr. Hwang-Leslie, a long-time digital design strategist: “We’ve switched the focus from ‘what’ to ‘how’.”
The platform’s nine websites were built by PSB marketing student Shokran Salehi, who needed no convincing when it came to the value of industry experience. Salehi chose to study marketing at Sheridan because the program offered the opportunity to do a co-op placement, and he’s already founded his own company, 100NineMarketing. “A three-month class can’t teach you every single feature of WordPress or social media. The more you use the software, the more you learn,” Salehi says. “When students graduate, they need digital skills. Any digital job you apply to, you need skills in WordPress, campaign management, content writing and SEO. I’m pretty sure that if you have those skills and have experience, you can get a job pretty easily.” Salehi’s personal experience backs up that opinion: When he was seeking a co-op placement, four of the five companies he reached out to called him back.
Bringing internship experience into the classroom
By offering students the equivalent of on-the-job experience in the classroom, Sheridan may also be helping level the playing field for aspiring marketers. “Not everyone has the resources to do unpaid work or travel away from home,” HubSpot Education Partner Development Manager Julia Gueron says, referring to the traditional approach of having students gain work experience through internships. “This is why I think experiential learning in the classroom is so powerful. If students work with software in class and have a familiar environment and a supportive professor, the number of people we consider ‘hire-able’ today will balloon.”
The educational partnership with HubSpot gives Sheridan students access to the Enterprise version of HubSpot’s marketing, sales, service and CRM software — the highest grade that the company offers. A subscription to those services is valued at more than $5,500 U.S. per month, and HubSpot also includes free access to its Content Management System (CMS) service that costs $300 U.S. per month. “We want people to be excited to learn about and talk about HubSpot so they can make a real difference in a business,” says Gueron. “Ultimately, we’d also be putting our own clients who need talent at a disservice if they’re having trouble finding people familiar with our software.”
Professors know what employers are looking for
Less than one year into the new experiential learning approach, students are already recognizing the benefits. “I really admire Sujinda and Garrett for the amount of work they’ve put into this. They were the right people to build the courses because they have so much experience in the field and ran their own businesses. They know what to look for when hiring someone,” says Salehi.
“There’s still a magic buzz around digital marketing. We’ve demystified it and made it real.” – Professor Garrett Hall
“You should know how to apply the stuff you learn. Digital marketing is huge, it’s very broad, and we covered all of it,” adds Stoykova, whose skills and accomplishments are now displayed in her online portfolio. “I feel like I’ve found something I really like, which was my purpose of coming to Sheridan. Now, I’m completely sure about what I want to do.”
To see the students’ work in action, visit one of Sheridan’s nine marketing class websites:
Pictured at top of page: Sheridan students working around a computer on campus.
Story written by: Jon Kuiperij, Marketing Copy/Content Writer at Sheridan.