Problem Analysis


What problem are you trying to address?

This class addresses the lack of business courses offered in the program specifically about online marketing strategies and use of social media networking platforms in a business environment. Students graduating or transferring from the business program have little or no practical experience in how to evaluate and create effective online marketing materials and messages, and successfully integrate appropriate online marketing tools into an overall business marketing strategy. Each year, business and industry are steadily increasing spending on web-based marketing and establishing a social presence on the web. Consequently, there is an increasing demand for professionals with knowledge and experience in effective use of online and social media technologies and skills in preparing and implementing effective online marketing strategies.

What are the symptoms of the problem?

Requests from the department's advisory board to include topics such as online marketing, use of social media tools and technology integration in general in current business curriculums.
Business student surveys and course evaluations consistently refer to the lack of adequate opportunities to learn about use of online and social media technologies for business marketing specifically and in the workplace in general. An informal assessment of artifacts produced by business and marketing majors- in the form of final research papers and marketing plan projects from marketing courses - reveal that while students show evidence of basic knowledge in traditional marketing concepts and strategies, they produce little or no evidence of knowledge or skills in online/social media marketing concepts, tools and strategies.

What is the root cause of the problem?

The root cause of the problem is that traditional marketing courses currently taught in the business department do not adequately address the concepts of online marketing and social media marketing in the curriculum. Because these concepts are relatively new to the world of business, there is a lack of understanding and expertise among current full-time faculty as to appropriate use of online and social media technologies in a business setting.

Is instruction an appropriate solution for the problem?

Formal online instruction and course activities is an appropriate solution for this problem. The course is a five-credit offering at the that can be used to satisfy requirements of the Business AA degree. In addition the course can be offered as an alternative to the CIS 121 (Intro to Computers) course which is an elective introductory computer course without a business focus. As a professional/technical program, the Pierce College business department is expected to prepare students to enter the workforce with skills and abilities that satisfy the needs of local and regional business and industry. In addition the program should be proactive in preparing graduates for dynamic workplace environments that are creating a demand for online and social media marketing specialists.

Is WBI an appropriate instructional solution?

Web-based instruction is an appropriate solution because this course teaches online and social media marketing - activities that primarily use web-based technologies. Students will gain relevant, practical skills and knowledge of online and social media strategies for business and build valuable workplace skills as a result of creating, sharing, analyzing and delivering online marketing and social media messages. In this situation, web-based instruction offers the best opportunity for transfer of skills to the workplace.

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Actuals Problem Gap Optimals

* Business students graduate with basic skills and knowledge in traditional marketing concepts and strategies for business.

* Increasing need for business professionals with skills and experience working with online and social media technologies in all aspects of business and industry.

* Business program graduates lack introductory skills and experience with online and social media technologies for business.

* Limited opportunities for community college students to take credit bearing courses in the area of online marketing & social media networking for business.

* Demand for professionals with experience in creating and implementing online and social media marketing strategies is not being addressed.

* Business program graduates display introductory skills, experience and knowledge in use of online and social media technologies and strategies for business.

* Increase opportunities for students to take credit bearing courses in the area of online marketing & social media networking for business.

Instructional Goal


At the end of instruction students will be able to research, describe and analyze a variety online and social media marketing tools that are available for use in business and industry. They will develop and present an online marketing strategy for a business, following traditional and online marketing principles and employing best practices and creative strategies for online and social media marketing, advertising and customer engagement.

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Instructional Context


Organizational infrastructure

Pierce College has an adequate system of instructional and technical support for online faculty and students via the eLearning department, the district libraries, the college IT help desk and the state supported Angel LMS help desk.

  • There are three computer labs on each campus and a student media lab on one campus. Open lab hours are posted on the college website and include day and evening hours exclusively for student use.
    Course LMS system is currently Angel which is an enterprise installation delivered through state owned and operated servers located off campus in Walla Walla, WA. If the state system is experiencing problems, Pierce can only notify students and faculty of downtime or service interruptions.
  • The eLearning department staff perform routine technical support to students and faculty using Angel and maintain a website with resources and step-by-step tutorials aimed at the distance learner. 24/7 LMS support is also available through the state, however, there have been numerous complaints in the past about the response time and level of customer service provided with the state Angel system. The Pierce College IT help desk provides student log-in and faculty network log-in support, as well as fielding connection and network issues between campuses and with the state delivered enterprise installations.
  • Online learners are encouraged, but not required, to complete a self-assessment survey through the eLearning website to determine if they are ready to be successful in an online environment.
  • New eLearning instructors are required to complete a two-hour workshop with the eLearning technical specialist prior to being accepted to teach online for the college. The workshop provides basic knowledge of technical use of the system but does not provide instructional strategies or best practices for design of courses. The workshops are face-2-face workshops only - this may require adjunct faculty who are typically located off campus (except when teaching) to take time off of work to travel to the campus for training. Virtual instructors (those living in other cities or states) must work with the eLearning department and district instructional departments to provide proof of competency in use of the Angel system in an alternative manner.

Allocation and competencies of personnel

  • The district employs one retention specialist to work specifically with eLearning students. He is available via a virtual office, online chat or by phone during regular business hours.
  • The Pierce College library staff provides services and assistance to faculty in finding and securing access to appropriate print and online resources. They can also create online "library guides" for specific courses that require Internet research activities. Two staff members are qualified to provide instructional design assistance for creating course curriculum on a case-by-case basis.
  • The business department is part of the district Business & Social Science Division headed by a division dean. Division support staff include an administrative assistant and a full-time faculty member who serves as program coordinator for the department.
  • Business courses are considered part of the Professional/Technical programs and receive support and direction from the office of the Dean of Workforce Education and a Business Advisory Council. The advisory council consists of local business and industry employers who provide guidance and leadership to the program with respect to local and regional workforce needs, trends and standards.
  • Professional / technical instructors are not typically compensated or specifically trained to convert existing grounded courses to online offerings. New courses or programs are proposed by faculty to the Dean of Workforce with compensation for development time available as budgets allow.
  • Copyright of instructor-developed materials follows Pierce College policy number 8.01.0000 which defines work-product. Work copyright is owned by the college if created by the employee using compensable work time, supplies or other tangible support provided by Pierce College. An employee retains the copyright to any work which an employee completes outside these parameters on her own time using non-college supplies or support, and without compensation from the college.
  • Since 2010, the college has piloted an instructional design peer review program based on the standards and practices of Quality Matters. Instructors are encouraged, but not required to submit courses for peer review by trained QM reviewers. Informal reviews can be requested via the eLearning department - QM reviewers will work with the instructor and provide input on how to design new courses or improve current courses based on the QM standards rubric.

Learner Location and Technology

Learners typically live in urban areas and are located locally or regionally. Only students admitted to Pierce College and officially enrolled in the class can access the course. To access online courses, they must have an off-campus Internet connection (high-speed connections recommended) or be able to come to a campus and use the student computer labs to complete assignments and take exams. Students may use either a PC or MAC with either Firefox or Internet Explorer browsers installed (Safari and Google Chrome are not compatible with Angel LMS).

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Learner Analysis


Elements Aspects
General Characteristics
  • Students are adults of various ages and diverse backgrounds, both traditional and non-traditional community college students.
  • Students have a minimum of a high school education level and many have college and work experience.
  • 60% of the Pierce college student population are part-time
  • average age is 29.3 years.
  • Gender in the business courses is split almost 50/50.
  • Learner motivations may vary in an elective 100 level course
  • Need for a 100 level, 5 credit course in the business program to maintain their progress toward an AA degree
  • Curious about online marketing and social media networking and interested in learning more about the emerging profession of online marketing specialist
  • Seeking specific experience and skills that could lead to a job or promotion at work
  • Interest in starting a business after graduation
Prior Knowledge
  • Learners most likely have some prior knowledge of use of social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) on a personal level
  • have heard about social media and online technologies on the news, in the movies or on the Internet
  • Students may not have experience regarding basic marketing for businesses or business communications.
  • May be the first time in an online college level course for some students.
Communication Skills
  • Students should possess college level reading and writing skills, or be willing to seek assistance via online tutoring or on-campus tutoring to improve these skills
  • Students should enjoy communicating online in one or more mediums such as blogs, discussion boards, e-mail, text or video chat, video cast or podcast
  • The willingness to try new communication tools and messaging techniques is central to success in this course
Technical Skills
  • Students should be comfortable conducting research on the Internet
  • Average keyboarding skills
  • Familiarity with searching with popular search engines such as Google or Yahoo
  • Uploading and downloading files
  • Using PowerPoint and Word to create documents and presentations
  • Creating user accounts and passwords for web-based applications
  • Understand basic cyber-security practices while using the Internet
Abilities and Disabilities
  • Course materials, media and the learning management system can be adapted to accommodate a variety of people with a range of disabilities
  • Students must work with the college ADA department to assess levels of disabilities and identify accommodation strategies to discuss with the instructor


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Relevant Standards


The following Pierce College Core Abilities and program standards have been approved by the college CLASS committees as appropriate for this course:

  • Information Competency:
    Graduates will be able to seek, find, evaluate and use information and employ information technology to engage in lifelong learning.
  • Critical, Creative and Reflective Thinking:
    Graduates will be able to question, search for answers and meaning, and develop ideas that lead to action.
  • Business Program Outcome:
    Students will use appropriate technological tools to create, compile and report business information.