This is the second post in a series of entries designed to retrofit some of the best social media marketing advice on the web for educational ends. In an earlier post I examined the pedagogical potential of following marketers’ lead and designing listening stations to monitor unfettered conversations. Today I consider the importance of letting learning outcomes drive both pedagogy and technology adoption in the higher ed classroom. I get there by way of a blog post on behavioral targeting.
Creative social media marketing (SMM) is all about enabling and encouraging engagement. But how exactly do marketers measure that? Clicks? Comments? Impressions? Year end performance figures? There’s a torrent of blog posts online about the difficulty of designing metrics to quantify engagement outcomes and measure behavioral marketing. According to marketing expert Mark W. Schaefer, the key to measuring the impact of SMM according to non-financial indicators (NFI’s) is to pick the correct metric—and in order to decide on which one, we need to ask a key question: “What behavior am I trying to drive?” Once the answer to that question is determined, “it would influence the store location and lay-out, product placement, product choices, advertising strategy, branding strategy, pricing decisions,” and in fact “literally every design, distribution and marketing decision could be made to drive that single metric ever upwards,” Schaefer writes. Sounds like a cohesive and coherent, strategic approach.
After pinpointing the key metric, “a magical thing will happen,” Schaefer continues, “your marketing activities will begin to conform to that goal.” Therefore selecting the correct NFI is of the utmost importance, since it will impact the evolution of marketing strategy. So the first step must be to identify target behaviors, and only then will we be in a position to select the right metrics to measure the success of marketing and publicity strategies in driving consumer/client actions.
So how to apply this to teaching? Student behaviors or more accurately, the target learning outcomes should shape both the modes of assessment professors adopt, and the technological tools we implement. For each course, there is a particular set of skills we want students to acquire or develop in the process of constructing a knowledge base. It is that goal set that defines what constitutes learning effectiveness. Starting from learning goals and working backwards, to design assignments, assessment rubrics, activities, and finally technologies, helps our courses remain student-centred.
Edtech disrupts, though often in amazingly productive, positive and unforeseen ways. Still, if we opt to start with the technology, there is a risk that the tools we use may distract from course content. As well, edtech “is not pedagogically neutral,” argues Lisa M. Lane, but rather it may influence the way courses get taught, “by presenting default formats designed to guide the instructor toward creating a course in a certain way.” Clearly for many of us, the challenge is to balance technological implementation and instruction with learning goals. This involves faculty developing our “techno-pedagogical skills and reflective practitioner skills” as described by Lorraine Beaudin and Corey Hadden in a recent research paper (pdf is here).
Two quick examples of connectivist learning goals driving tech adoption: if your goal is to enable and assess peer-mentoring behavior, consider using a wiki to drive collaborative peer-production, connectivity, and communication. For courses seeking to connect the classroom to the community while teaching good civic behavior, consider a citizen journalism/documentary project that gets students using digital cameras (or smartphone cams, or Flip camcorders) to record and reflect on life in their corner of the world, on and off campus.
When using a range of edtech gadgets and gizmos, many of which take considerable time to master, and some students may never have used with any amount of skill (steep learning curves anyone?), there’s always a risk that the clickers, Powerpoint, Twitter, Blackboard or Ning will at times drive or distract from pedagogic concerns. Teaching with technology, and encouraging media-rich connectivist learning takes up considerable amounts of prep time and can encroach on class time too. All the more reason to reflect often on the question inspired by marketing experts like Schaefer: what behaviors are we trying to drive in the classroom, and how will our edtech adoptions help both faculty and students to realize those goals?