Schools: Create Curricula That Transcend Platforms

Put the Onus on Students to Bring Digital Skills to the Table

By Published on .

Alex Kniess Alex Kniess
At SXSW Interactive last month I attended a discussion that attempted to address the issue of digital agency integration into the traditional agency framework. The main revelation was that there is no one model that will integrate digital into a traditional agency seamlessly. All the while, I couldn't help but think what all this meant for the colleges and universities that are feeding talent into these frameworks.

Coming from a liberal arts education at a "typical" four-year university has made me wonder if we can even compete. After all, there are specialized portfolio schools like VCU Brandcenter and Miami Ad School to contend with. My biased opinion prevails, though: Specific skills can be learned by anyone, so curriculum should focus on strategic thinking that transcends models and platforms, however changing they may be.

For example, rather than teaching how to use the newest Adobe tools, hottest new web start-ups or website coding, a successful advertising curriculum would create an environment that expects students to bring these things to the table already. This is a necessity because, frankly, education systems are too slow to keep up with the latest and greatest. But there is still a need to create classes, programs and ultimately communities of students who have enough initiative to take care of the skills they need outside of the classroom. Once you clear the table of these ever-changing skill sets, you make room for the type of thinking (and teaching) that transcends platforms and models.

The best advertising education systems can only take you so far in the classroom and through theory. You can't learn to "speak the language" until you've had experience actually doing work. So the curriculum has to be focused around providing opportunities for the students with initiative to apply their skills and theory to real-world settings. If you give students a chance to test what you teach them about advertising process and theory in the real-world, then both sides of the spectrum will improve.

There will always be a new "latest and greatest," and the future advertisers who can apply broad-based strategies of critical thinking and collaboration will be the ones who don't let themselves, or their agencies, get stuck in any sort of model, be it traditional or digital.