As social networking websites become more and more popular in the business world as tools for publicity and outreach, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh has found a need for a new major that revolves around training on the use of sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
With money set aside by Gov. Jim Doyle in the growth agenda, UW-Oshkosh got their proposal approved and now has the appropriate funds to create this new major.
Currently, the major is still up for approval and the members of the committee who are working on course content and details of the major expect it to be available to students by fall 2010.
According to UW-Oshkosh marketing professor and committee member Sarah Stanley, the interest arose because the university was looking for a major that would draw in students who otherwise would not have chosen UW-Oshkosh.
Other UW System schools have programs that involve social networking technology and graphic design, such as UW-Stevens Point, but the proposal for the program at Oshkosh combines this new technology along with the business aspect.
Although UW does not have a specific degree aimed at teaching social networking, there are many classes that involve such technology.
One course taught in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication by associate lecturer Germaine Halegoua serves as an introduction to social networking tools.
Throughout the course, students spend at least 15 hours on an assignment where they present three different examples of social media, which in the past have included Twitter, blogs and Google Earth.
Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications Greg Downey, who began teaching a Library and Information Studies course titled Information Society in fall 2009, incorporates many of these technologies into his course as well.
The course integrates the use of social networking into his syllabus by including such things as blogging and podcasting.
One section of his course will focus on how to use social networking technology such as blogging in the business world. He also plans to set up a Twitter feed for students and teaching assistants to provide commentary on the class via tweets throughout his lecture.
Downey said he believes it is important for students to be familiar with using such programs, as in many cases students use them to promote their own careers, and more and more companies are looking for people with these skills.
Learning such skills while in school would save training on the job, according to Stanley.
“A lot of the students that graduate with a marketing degree know how to market products, yet are not in tune with all the technology skills,” Stanley said.
She said she hopes graduating with this degree would put students at the level the company needs them to be at and better equip students with the skills that are being demanded.
“What I’d like to see happen at UW is another certificate or major, maybe something like information and communication technology in society,'” Downey said.
He also said the major should include modern technology, yet be flexible with the times, since he believes in the coming years social networking tools will be replaced with the next new technology.
“I think it’s exciting and the hot thing in new media right now but I’m not sure if it’s going to stay,” Downey said.