D. McCorkle, J. Reardon

University of Northern Colorado (UNITED STATES)
Technical certifications are common in most industries. This paper discusses the pros and cons of integrating industry certification into the academic classroom setting. Herein we use the example of integrating Hootsuite into a social media class.

Common teaching methods include lecture, case study, brainstorming, problem solving, cooperative learning, drama technique and project methods. There is little doubt in today’s world of the necessity of integrating technology into the class room – both in terms of delivery and content. In this case we examine the benefits and costs associated with integrating Hootsuite certification into a social media course, both as content and as a learning method.

Social media and its use for marketing is ubiquitous and ever-changing. The social media course is a semester long, real-world, real-time use of Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress blogging, Facebook Like Pages, YouTube, and Pinterest. For this course, the supporting tool for the student management of their social media is Hootsuite. Hootsuite is a leading social media dashboard used by professionals to manage multiple social platforms. Through Hootsuite University, educators and students receive free semester access to the Hootsuite dashboard, social media video lessons through the Hootsuite Academy, and the opportunity to earn the Hootsuite Platform Certification (Hootsuite 2016).

Early in the semester, the professor applies with Hootsuite and provides student names and emails for free access to the Pro version of Hootsuite and to Hootsuite University. After students are registered and have access, the use of Hootsuite is demonstrated to the class, the certification process is explained, and suggestions are made for study and preparation.
As an assignment, students are required to self-learn the use of Hootsuite using the videos, and then complete the testing for certification during the 7th week of a 15 week semester. Upon certification, each student can add their name and profile to Hootsuite’s Social Media Consultant Directory.

In the social media marketing course, 98 students (100%) have earned Hootsuite platform certification. Of these, 48 (48.9%) passed with one attempt; 48 (48.9%) passed with two attempts; and only 2 (2.04%) required three exam takes to pass. Anecdotally, over these past three years, numerous students have reported that their Hootsuite certification played an important role in being found by social recruiters on LinkedIn, prompted a discussion during a job interview, and/or hired for internships or full-time jobs in social media.

Of course, costs are involved as well. The certification takes course time, instructor time – both preparation and grading. However, these are true of most course content. While Hootsuite and many other certifications give free or severely discounted certifications for students, many also do not. This can pose a significant hurdle for students. Also, the material tends to be very specific, and perhaps not applicable to all areas.