Which digital marketing course should you choose?
One of the most common questions asked of OMCP is “Which Digital Marketing Courses are right for me?” In this special training series, we interview the leaders of seven digital marketing course providers to learn the differences.
Meredith Gray Stone, Program Manager, Professional Certificate Programs at Duke University, was kind enough to sit with us and share what the industry can expect from the Duke University Digital Marketing Programs.
Welcome back to the OMCP studios, and with us today is Meredith Gray Stone, Program Manager, Professional Certificate Programs at Duke University. I’m your host, Michael Stebbins, and today we’ll be discussing digital marketing training and some of the differences you should be aware of. Meredith, welcome to the program.
Thanks for having me, Michael. Glad to be here.
Glad you’re here as well. Now, I know you manage five certificate programs at Duke. You’ve been in education, in some capacity, for over 10 years as a Program Manager. What drove you to get into the business of education and training?
Well, I was a high school English teacher for many years, prior to doing this. I was working with high school students, as you know, and then eventually I moved into working with the Huntington Learning Center, and there I was able to work with a wide variety of students, of all ages, and I noticed that I started to have a yearning to work with an older audience, just for a change. Even though I can’t really take credit for founding this Digital Media Marketing Course here at Duke, or even in founding Duke Continuing Studies itself, I can provide some history about how it all began.
As everyone knows, Duke has a very long, rich history of academic excellence, we’ve been on the map for a long time. But our continuing studies has really only been around since 1969. That’s the year it started. And it actually started in order to really try to bring female students back into the college setting and encouraging them to finish their undergraduate degrees. That’s how it all started, which I think is pretty interesting. From there it’s really blossomed into providing a lot of different opportunities.
In the 70s, it was mostly about the female students, and then eventually we started catering to an older audience, with folks who were retired and just wanted to get out of the house and delve into some of these random topics and have the opportunity for enrichment classes. It was in the 80s that we started moving towards having these summer conferences. We started inviting younger audiences to Duke to have these academic camps and these summer experiences here at Duke so they could get a taste of the college life, while still being in Junior High or High School, whatever age it was that they came and experienced it.
Then from there we moved into more of a professional type of setting. We were still doing all those other things I mentioned, but to focus our energy more on things like corporate training, we added a nonprofit management program and then, obviously, the professional certificate programs that we offer now as well.
I think, at the end of the day, Duke realized that there’s always going to be a strong need for professional development. That’s never really going to go away. A lot of adults always have that desire to keep learning and a lot of times, they’re using it to their advantage. They need to have some type of an edge in their job to get advancement, or maybe they want to transition careers altogether. And let’s be honest, a lot of times people don’t have the funds or the time to go back to school and get additional degrees. I think that’s why this is important to Duke, and I think that’s why it continues to be important to us. Ultimately, we really want to help people enhance their lives. Whether that’s through, again, getting a better job or being able to move into to a new industry and just grow their skill sets. I think that’s what continues to drive us. We just want to see people be successful.
1969. That’s an incredible legacy. I can’t imagine what some of the programs were back then. Do you have any knowledge of that?
Oh, I think they have varied extensively to things like very specific history classes. Like … I don’t know, if you wanted to learn more about FDR. I know now, especially with the older population, some of the technology classes that are popular are, how to use your iPhone to take great photos and capture your grandkids on video, or whatever you want to do with that. They’re kind of all over the place and I know they’ve gotten into much more niche subjects then that. Those are just a couple examples.
A little different than 1969, but it’s great to know it goes that far back.
Ability to Write is Key
Just a quick thank you to you from hiring managers for teaching English. Even at the high school level. One of the biggest criteria, as we interview hiring managers, is just the ability to write, and they have such a hard time finding that. They find these folks who understand marketing through and through, but they cannot write a few sentences. It’s just wonderful that you put in your time to do that and set up these marketers for success.
Yeah, it’s a hard topic to teach. I think that’s why I eventually I started to say, “You know what? I’d really like to start working with people who want to learn.”Rather than these kids who are fighting me every day.
I wish we could just get it in their heads that how well you learn to write has a direct correlation to your income later.
Obviously, you’re in a different world now, to some degree. Your programs are being delivered online. At least I know the digital marketing program is and certainly some of the others. How are you measuring the success of your courses and programs now?
How Success is Measured
That’s a great question. I think students who inquire about our programs, they ask that very question. I do think, since our program does attract a very wide audience, it is kind of hard to narrow our definition of success to only really one or two outcomes. Because I think different people enroll for different reasons and just the definition of success means different things to different people.
For instance, some people, they come into a program and they really just want a very general understanding about what digital marketing is, or they just want to be able to speak more intelligently on the subject. Whereas, other people, maybe they’re already in the industry and they want to be a little bit more informed about what their colleagues are doing, as far as the decision making process that goes on behind the scenes with these strategies, and they really just want to learn the basics of the methodology behind all of the digital marketing that’s going on in their companies, or wherever it is they’re working.
- Confidence that they can pursue these digital marketing strategies that they’re learning about
- Learners can apply the skills and the knowledge that they’re learning
Then I think some people come into it and they are really ‘gung ho and they want to make sure that they are mastering everything they could possibly master. Which, as you know Michael, from experience, is quite a large task to take on because mastering marketing is something that really takes a lot of time and experience to do.
Then, I think other people come in and they’re looking for very specific guidance on a particular type of marketing.
There are a lot of factors here, but I think that when you boil it down, I think that learners are looking to walk away with two things. I think those things are probably confidence and, based on the comprehensive program that we offer, because it is quite comprehensive, I think that’s generally the two indicators of success: Confidence that they can pursue these digital marketing strategies that they’re learning about, and second, that they can actually apply the skills and the knowledge that they’re learning, and that they can immediately do something with that.
I know from experience, it’s frustrating when you put the time and energy into learning and trying to improve yourself on something and all you do is walk away with theories. We don’t want that to happen. We want people to actually be able to walk away with something that they can apply immediately and see results fairly quickly. I get that feedback continuously, that learners are able to do that when they complete our program. To me, that means success.
Who the Courses are For
Meredith, you described a wide range of students who are coming to the programs, each with maybe a different measurable outcome. Would you say that the program is catering more to larger corporate settings, like at an enterprise company, or is it catered more towards people who are going to be independent contractors or working in a small business, or does it cater to all of those? Is there some kind of positioning that you see?
That’s a great question. I think the answer is all of those, because it is such a comprehensive program. I think that you can take these strategies and you can apply them on a very small budget, but I think you’re also capable of applying them on a much larger budget and taking it to the next level, if you will.
For our ideal candidates, they do come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are already, like you said, already have the marketing experience and want more targeted content to take their knowledge to the next level. Because they’re already working with marketing, they just want to know how to do things, probably, more independently. Or they’re focusing in on, how can I have less waste, wasteful spending. And some people, they’re new to the industry and they want to just be able to get a foot in the door somewhere, and this is a good place to start. For instance, working on principles that would allow them to get the OMCA certification, or even OMCP. But obviously, you need experience for that.
What Makes Duke’s Courses Different
Now’s the chance to talk about what makes the courses different or what people might find inside. I’m curious what is in the courses that you’re offering that is unlikely to be found in other courses?
We’re definitely proud to be able to offer one of the most extensive online courses on the market. I do believe that. There’s a lot of content within our program. But, we’re also proud to be able to offer some unique opportunities. Some of those things, or I guess, one of the things that would really stand out would be what we call live mentoring sessions.
What those are, are, they’re private mentoring sessions that are exclusive to our Duke students. We offer these twice a month for students who are enrolled in our program. Really what it allows them to do is engage with instructors, They’re not just people who have studied digital marketing, they’re people who are actually active in the industry, who are doing this day in, day out. They’re keeping up with the trends. As you know, digital marketing is always evolving, so they really have a lot of experience with a lot of the strategies that they’re teaching to.
Essentially, they’re going to come in and they’re going to lead a learning session through a virtual classroom and it’s going to be on a topic that’s obviously relevant to the program, and just digital marketing in general. It allows the students to not only get, obviously, just an extra added value within the program because it’s probably going to be content that’s not already within the program itself. So, again, kind of a freebie. But it also allows them to, well, just to talk with the instructor and they have the flexibility of submitting questions or ideas ahead of time. The instructors can actually look at this feedback and they can create unique sessions that are tailored to what the students want or what they need.
If students want the opportunity to come in to the live classroom and interact, they can, and they can do that at their own comfort level, or if they simply want to sit back and observe, they can do that too. We record the sessions and give students the opportunity to listen to them whenever they can, if they’re too busy to make it. I think that students really appreciate that because it’s a very small setting, private setting, and it gives them the opportunity to ask things that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
Length of Access
Meredith, how long is the access for your typical student? Do they get a few months of access or more?
We are very generous on our access. Even though it is quite a long program, we do give students a year in order to complete the program. One of the perks that’s also unique to Duke is that, if they do successfully finish the program, they would get a complimentary year of access so they can keep going back and reviewing the material. They have access to any newly updated material that comes along because we are always making our classes better and revising those as things change. It’s quite generous.
That is. If I’m understanding right, if I sign up and do really well, I could end up with 24 months total access?
Position on OMCP and Industry Certifications
Okay. That is generous. Tell me a little bit more about your thoughts on industry certification standards, like OMCP.
I think they’re very important. I think they’re critical for many reasons. I think they’re critical for students because it allows them to get an idea of what’s going to be a reputable program.
As you know, leading OMCP, you have what are called The Registered Education Providers, so a student knows that if an institution is offering a program and they’re a Registered Education Provider, they’re going to have to adhere to a criteria that’s set forth by someone, that will ultimately provide a quality program. At the end of the day, that’s going to set them up for success.
- Good for students
- Good for educators
- Good for employers
It’s good for the student, it’s good for the education provider because they know that they’re giving students quality content and they’re coming up with effective training programs that are going to be relevant to what people need and what they want. And, it’s also good for employers, obviously. There’s just so much competition out there in the workforce and it can sometimes be hard to find people that are very skilled in what they do, and take it seriously. It allows employers to look for someone who has made the investment in themself, so it gives them some confidence that they’re going to be hiring a valuable employee who’s been held to these standards.
I think it’s important for all those reasons, and I think, especially today, there’s just … with the flooding of free information out there and there’s all this content available online, we know that while that can be a very good thing, that content isn’t always correct. Or maybe it was correct at one time, but now it’s outdated or … so, having the certification standards guarantees that someone who really is taking their learning seriously is going to be able to get quality content.
Where Digital Marketing Training is Going
Well, we’re really happy to have you as one of the leading registered education providers. The pass rates are exceptional coming in from your graduate. If, Meredith, you’re looking to the future of digital marketing training, what are some of your predictions or plans or visions that you have?
Well, I think in general, I see training becoming more hands on for learners. While I think it’s all well and good that we have the flexibility of a self-paced content and students definitely, they definitely like that because we’re all busy, we all have different schedules, and it works. A lot of times, when I talk to prospective students I get the same questions, and those questions are, how will I be able to interact with instructors? Or, how can I connect with other students in the program? Or, is there a way for me to practice these skills that I’m going to be learning? Those are very common questions that I get.
I think a lot of us are … we’re pretty used to learning by videos, thanks to YouTube. We’ve all kind of become adept at that. But, I think students still want the option to be able to ask questions to an actual live human being. Just like I said, with the live mentoring sessions, I think students appreciate the opportunity, even if maybe they never use it, it’s there.
I think they also want to be able to talk to other people, just to get a feel for, hey, this is what I’m encountering, how would you handle this? Or, just use each other for sounding boards and get an idea for best practices. Also, they want to be able to make sure that they’re getting something out of the course. Just because you watched 20 videos on SEO doesn’t mean that you can actually apply that.
We’re already accommodating these things with the way that our program is already set up. We offer the live mentoring sessions. We have these simulation labs and exercises the students can do to apply their skills. But I think that in the future we’re definitely going to be exploring how we can take this to the next level and really amp it up.
Meredith, the next section is, normally in these interviews, a stats blitz, and I know your management isn’t ready to share those numbers yet so we aren’t going to put you on the spot for that. If there is some room, or that gets approved later, we’ll put those in the show notes.
So I’m just going to skip to the next thing and ask, what advice would you have for learners who are just approaching digital marketing or learning digital marketing through a program like yours?
Advice for Digital Marketing Course Participants
You would think that most folks aren’t afraid to do this, but don’t be afraid to ask questions, I think that we all start somewhere, we all start at different places, and some of us who are in the program are a little more experienced than others, but, don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t quite understand something.
Also, when it comes to marketing, as a learner, you have to really be prepared to take risks. As I talked about before with being able to master marketing, it is something that takes a lot of time and experience. I think, you and I both know, from experience, that you really have to try a lot of strategies before you’re going to find that one that works best for your purpose and your specific audience. So don’t be afraid to take risks and try different things out.
And I guess, just always be open to learning. Even if you do go through a digital marketing education program and you get a certificate, or you do whatever you do to prepare for some kind of certification, or even a job, just always be open to learning. Because, as we said before, the digital marketing industry is always evolving, and very quickly. You have to be open to learning new strategies and you have to do that so that you don’t become stale. Take advantage of free resources and other people that are out there, and again, just be open.
Where to Sign Up
Meredith, when somebody does decide to enroll in a course, where can they find the certificate programs at Duke Continuing Studies?
Well, the best place is to find us online. They can find us at https://learnmore.duke.edu. Once you go there you’ll see, right at the top, Professional Certificates, and that’s where the Digital Media Marketing Program is located.
Well, that is all the time we have for this session.Meredith, thank you so much for joining us.
Yeah, thanks for having me.
I’m your host, Michael Stebbins, and you’ve been listening to the OMCP Online Marketing Best Practices podcast.
OMCP maintains the certification standards for the online marketing industry, in cooperation with leaders just like Meredith and Duke University. We’ll look forward to seeing you in the next OMCP podcast.
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