I am an April 2010 public relations graduate from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which has the only four-year PR degree program in Canada. However, while I really did get a lot of value from my education and enjoyed the process, please don’t take the next few paragraphs as bashing my school because that certainly isn’t my intent. I just want to demonstrate from my own personal experience what I see as the lack of practical social media training in communication and public relations degrees.
Over the past four years, my professors continually reinforced that social media and web communication would be the wave of the future. However, I believe the future is now! You would think that being the only school offering a four-year PR degree in the country it would be on the cutting edge of technology and be the leading the way on social media instruction. That just wasn’t the case. You couldn’t even access the Internet in the classrooms!
Although my degree highlighted the importance of using social media as a method of communication, not one of my professors knew how to use Twitter, foursquare or any other tool except for Facebook. It wasn’t until just last year that they introduced a social media course as an elective. It was essentially a 13-week course on how to build a wiki, which to me does not constitute a ‘social media course’. Granted, they did explain hashtags, but that was the extent of it. Now, I have to admit that I myself did not take this elective because of the introductory nature of the course, but I have very close friends who did, and I haven’t heard anything positive about it.
In my opinion, there really needs to be more emphasis put on actually demonstrating the functionality and value of social media, rather than just telling students how important these tools are. We know they are vital to deliver our messages, but how do we use them to our advantage? If our educational institutions are training the leaders of tomorrow, why are they themselves five years behind? They’re certainly on the path to tomorrow, but at the moment … tomorrow isn’t soon enough.
Are you a recent graduate or current undergrad who has similar or different experiences? Please provide your comments to this post!
Kris Allen (@krisallenpr) currently lives and works in the non-profit sector in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His PR experience includes lottery and gaming, economic development, oil and gas, and hospitality. He’s also a self-described social media ‘junkie’, Apple user, BBQ aficionado, thrill-seeker, traveler, proud Canadian, and a hockey fanatic!