Teaching New Courses Is As Challenging As Taking Them
The College of Communications and the College of Information Technology joined forces last year to offer Penn State students a new minor: Digital Media and Transient Analytics. The minor earns official recognition next fall and introduces several new classes.
Digital Media and Transient Analytics Coordinator Dr. Lee Ahern is also a professor of Digital Advertising, one of the recently introduced classes. Doing anything for the first time is a challenging endeavor, and teaching a new class without a previously documented history is not an exception.
“It’s a lot of work. You spend a lot of time preparing beforehand and you spend a lot of time each week making sure you have things organized,” Dr. Ahern said, “You don’t have any preexisting material to fall back on. Things are changing really fast so it’s not only staying on top of the material but staying on top of the industry as well.”
In an ever-changing environment like advertising, real-life experience is invaluable to a student’s future success. Dr. Ahern’s goal is to introduce industry partners while still in class. Although he intended to implement a partnership into his digital advertising class this semester, it didn’t quite go as planned. He’s more optimistic for next semester.
“This has been difficult, but as we progress I think we will find more industry partners,” Ahern said. We want to find people that represent the right kind of industry that are interested and flexible working with you. We want them to be able to provide access and make a meaningful learning experience for the students.”
This degree of difficulty isn’t consistent throughout the minor though, and a few of the classes even allow students certain certifications like the Google Analytics and Google AdWords certifications upon course completion.
“When there is a dominant platform we can use as a teaching tool, we will do it. However, sometimes there is a lot of completing platforms, so then it is a matter of trying to find out what are the most important things to understand,” Dr. Ahern said.
Organizing and teaching the class has been as much of a learning opportunity for Dr. Ahern as it has been for the students.
“You learn. You never learn anything as well as if you teach it because you really have to be prepared –not only to teach but also for the questions might students have. I want to have the answer,” he said.
Research that goes into this class and others like it far surpasses what students see. To feel adequately prepared for class, professors have to be able to weed out any information unnecessary for students to learn. Dr. Ahern feels the future of his digital advertising class is bright, with an emphasis on key industry concepts and hands-on experience with industry technology.
The future of the minor seems just as positive. It’s already gaining interest among students and Dr. Ahern hopes the popularity will grow.
“I hope we get a lot of student interest, I hope it creates a profile for the College of Communications outside of those in the college that may not have considered a minor in communications. I’d like to see us add some courses so students have options within the minor,” Dr. Ahern said.
He wants to see more focuses geared to students interests and flirts with the idea of adding a journalism track or a social justice and community activism track to the minor.
“Long term I would like to see an expanded collaboration between IST and the College of Comm in upper level course development,” Dr. Ahern said. I’d like to explore the possibility of making Penn State a laboratory for those who want to study advertising and social media technology. I think that way we would become known by technology companies for people that are educated enough to understand not only public relations and marketing but the technology aspect as well.”