Getting back into school mode is tough. After a long summer of internships, waiting on tables, or studying abroad, students might feel overwhelmed in the world of homework, exams and papers.

For digital media teachers, it’s even more difficult–they have to be the authority on a rapidly-changing industry in a classroom with students who haven’t known the world without the internet. Instead of reading books, students have to subscribe to a RSS reader and Twitter list. Instead of a 20-page paper, teachers require students start a blog. There’s no set curriculum, nothing set it stone.

In honor of the school year beginning, we wanted to open up a dialogue about education and digital media to help professors and students keep on top of what they should be talking about in class. We chatted with a few of our digital media friends and asked them one question: “What do you wish you learned in digital media class?” Here are their answers:

Trisha Mack

Trisha Mack is the Social Media Manager at Wayfair

Take risks to get noticed. The great thing about social and digital is that everyone has a perspective and you can test and learn very quickly. I think more so in this area it’s important to think out of the box and try new things- this is such an innovative (and for the most part forgiving) channel. It’s a universal lesson for any recent grad to speak up with their ideas but I think recent grabs specifically have great insights on this space coming right out of school.

Miles Branman

Miles Branman is a Product Specialist in Client Services at Crimson Hexagon

Though college was a great chance to get the basics of digital media, the biggest educational gap dealt with the financial side of new media. How to turn a profit within the digital media industry. Much of my new media education dealt with how to use the tools and to craft an image, but not how revenue is generated (ad, sponsorships, etc) and how digital media analytics can be the greatest argument to corporations that new media HAS an ROI, a big one at that.

Peter Stringer

Peter Stringer is the Sr. Director of Interactive Media for the Boston Celtics

I wish every student who wants to work in digital media was a journalism major. Maybe I’m biased, but the basic rules of journalism are critical to anyone who’s going to be a digital media pro: spell names correctly, demand factual accuracy and verify your sources, and don’t plagiarize — this means you, bloggers! Those principles haven’t changed, but the distribution methods and technologies are evolving faster than ever. Journalism isn’t about how to write an article for a newspaper that’s nearly extinct. It’s about how to tell a relevant, balanced and accurate story. That’s a timeless idea, regardless of the medium.

Expertise in digital media, of course, evolves literally by the day. What’s true of today’s technology may not be true tomorrow. Facebook, Twitter, Google and friends change the rules and capabilities daily, all while constantly raising the stakes. It’s not practical to expect universities to keep their technology curriculum current without instructors who are actively living and breathing this stuff. Students are likely to learn more than they’d ever absorb in the confines of the classroom by interning with a start-up or tech company, or by simply digging in and immersing themselves on their own time.

Journalism school used to be the prerequisite for having the power to (mis)inform the masses. The advent of social media certainly decentralized the creation and distribution of information, but that democratization of influence comes at a heavy price. Forget the pen; the smartphone is now mightier than the sword, especially where it pertains to self-inflicted wounds. Companies and brands must be vigilant and selective when deciding who will brandish their digital media assets.  A journalism degree, not to mention common sense, would be a logical baseline requirement.

Chris Wilcox

Chris Wilcox is an Associate Community Manager at Communispace

I would have liked to learn more about digital media strategy. In this age, every college student is acquainted with digital media in some capacity – mostly, knowledge of how to use social media on a personal scale. Being able to take that personal knowledge of digital media and enhance that with in classroom experience with running a digital campaign would be helpful for college students not only for personal growth, but for marketability for a job or internship.

Pam Sahota

Pam Sahota is a Content Strategist at Digitas.

I think keeping it relevant to real time and current brand examples and how they’re mastering or failing at digital media is always key. Past examples used in class can be out-dated and less useful at times.

Eric Leist

Eric Leist is a Senior Marketing Manager at TrueLens

One thing I wish I learned about digital media was an understanding of software development cycles. Knowing about the process by which the technology that powers media is built gives you an understanding of why certain tools work the way they do. That knowledge makes it easier to answer questions from clients and colleagues who are less digital-savvy.

Zach Cole

Zach Cole is the Director of Strategy at Attention Span Media. 

I wish that we had been taught basic HTML and CSS. Knowing basic front-end code helps as a digital marketer with everything from content creation (websites and blogs) to SEO. I know many students simply had to teach this to themselves, which works in the end, but a classroom could speed up the process. I also wish we had been taught more about analytics. Granted at the time, social media analytics were (and to this day, still are) evolving as marketers try to determine which metrics are most valuable. But again here I was forced to take it upon myself to learn Google Analytics, which is an must-know for any digital marketer.

Kristin Dziadul

Kristin Dziadul is the Marketing Analyst for Backupify

A few of the things I wish digital media classes covered include:

  • Trends in new media and why the web is a viable place to do marketing (as opposed to, or along with) print, TV, radio, event, etc. marketing
  • The strong advantages of marketing measurement online since so much of online advertising is easily tied to metrics since you can track everything
  • The new age of the internet buyer and how it differs from what people looked for in in-store products as this differs strongly
  • Career opportunities available in digital media since it’s an up and coming field with high demand for skills

Elisabeth Michaud

Elisabeth Michaud is a Senior Associate Community Manager at Communispace

I would love it if professors/advisors really drilled home the point that “you’re not as invisible as you think.” It’s so easy to say something stupid/borderline offensive online (in a Tweet/blog post/Facebook comment) and think that nobody really reads it, or even that if you delete it, it’s gone forever. Screen shots, people. Screen shots. Professors could make some good points using real-life examples of social media fails like Anthony Weiner et al.

Kim Bryden

Kim Bryden is a Community Marketing Coordinator at Treater

The iPhone debuted and Twitter began when I was in college. Being a part of the onset of digital media was certainly helpful but I am jealous of the students that are immersed into the breadth of what’s out there today. That being said, it’s hard to choose from all of the outlets that are now available. My course suggestion would be “Do I need to be everywhere? How to decide which social media outlet is best for your business” with the follow-up being, “Now that I’m out there, how do I quantify all of this chatter?” Quantifying results into tangible metrics is very difficult in this industry and anyone who can learn early on the importance of social media analytics, in correlation to bottom line and driving sales, is going to be very hireable.

We’ve heard from our friends, and now we want to hear from you. What do you wish you learned about digital media in school? Share your insights with us in the comments below.

Photo credit for thumbnail goes to One Laptop Per Child.

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