I had the pleasure of speaking to the students and lecturers in the marketing department at Bindura University of Science Education last week as we explored the possibilities that marketers should explore and make use of in the 21st century. The experience was uplifting and indeed humbling. The department lecturers are doing a great job, given the discourse that I had with the students.
If that is an indication of the calibre of graduates that we are going to be churning out, then the marketing world will be rejuvenated as there is great potential for brand new ideas to filter into the field. It was also quite a euphoric experience for me as I met with friends from university back in the day — Sarah Nyengerai and Thulani Dube — who are doing an amazing job as teaching staff in that department. Networks were formed and I am certain great things are going to come out of them. The conversations that I had with the dean of the marketing department, Blessing Maumbe were in the direction that Zimbabwe should benefit from our expertise as marketers. We are the people that we have been waiting for. Together we can drive progress in our fields of interest.
To achieve this progress, reliance has to be placed on the power of social media, among other enablers in driving tuition in university marketing curriculum. Social media has become a force that the Zimbabwean institutions of higher learning can no longer afford to ignore. It is given that these may not come on an easy budget, but the opportunity cost of not setting up facilities that can host social media platforms as part of the communication and teaching aspects of our institution may be huge as virtual space is becoming a huge reality in the world. In the United States, virtual lectures are not something that is out of the normal and social media is enabling students and lecturers and other people who are interested in a particular subject to convene discussions just as if all those that are participating are gathered in one room and yet they may be in different continents all together.
Virtual networks could even increase enrolment and cause the cost of education to come down and yet allow the universities to operate profitably. There are several advantages that universities may derive in the use of social media. Though not limited to these, some of the advantages are detailed below.
The advent and dominance of social media has created a new breed of marketing which requires professionals to build and further the field. The students of today are the people who will fill those positions. It will improve the speed of thought processes while improving communication and technological skills. Social media will be useful to seek engagement from other thought leaders. The learning experience will become broader as students do not have to rely on their lecturers alone for knowledge and experience. Access to books will also increase as students no longer rely on the traditional libraries but have access to a wide variety of reading available.
Suffice to say, providing tuition with the aid of social media poses risks for universities which may be challenging to handle. For instance, some students run the risk of being excluded from educational programmes for lack of access to the electronic gadgets required to participate in the academic tasks assigned by lecturers.
Furthermore, a lack of personal finance with which to purchase data required to be online may also result in students failing to access the social media platforms on which valuable learning materials may have been posted.
While this may appear minor, perhaps at a micro level, when viewed on a large scale, the cost to the nation is huge to the extent that many students may either take too long to complete their qualifications or fail the course altogether. While providing tuition via social media sounds challenging or otherwise impossible due to the risks enunciated above, universities may consider mitigating the inherent risks in order to leverage on the ever-growing social media uptake by students and society at large. For instance, universities may enter into partnerships with public and private entities for the provision of data, for instance, via WiFi. Private firms may do so as part of their corporate social responsibility while public institutions may approach this as part of their mandate to support development through education.
What is evident from this analysis is that though providing social media-based tuition is fraught with risks, careful planning and risk mitigation as suggested herein may result in an improvement in the efficiency of universities.
Till next week, keep reading and remain brand savvy.