First, let me provide a necessary disclaimer: Full Sail University is running advertising on SEO Chat. I was not aware of this when I came up with the idea of writing this article; the advertising in no way affects my review. Honestly, I’m pretty impressed with what I saw of the university as a whole, but then again, you’d expect to see the best of a college when you attend their open house – or in Full Sail’s case, the “Behind the Scenes” tour.
Let me see if I can give you an image of the university. There are no ivy-covered walls here, except as part of a set; the glass-and-steel buildings on campus look more like they belong in an office park than an institute for higher learning, but that’s just the way Full Sail likes it. On its extensive grounds you will find recording studios, a back lot that simulates a variety of locations around the world, computer labs capable of animation and 3D modeling, sound and dubbing stages, dedicated areas for creating computer games, at least one high-definition studio, and I’m barely scratching the surface.
Full Sail has been teaching web classes since 2001. They flaunt their educational innovation. For example, along with Apple, they offer Project LaunchBox, an initiative that puts an Apple computer (usually a laptop) and software package in the hands of every single one of their students. The students do pay a fee for the hardware and software, which varies depending on each student’s program, but the price is significantly less than what they would pay for it on the open market. And the computer and software go with the student after graduation.
Full Sail is also very proud of the interface they’ve created for their online programs. You can check out a video that walks you through the details of several screen shots. They’ve tried to make the online experience as interactive and connected as possible, with a clean, organized, easy-to-understand interface, the ability to set up video conferences with fellow students, and the ability to send an email to your course instructor with just one click from your dashboard. Now that I’ve given you a very brief overview, let’s take a closer look at the college’s Internet Marketing degrees.
The first important thing to note about the Internet Marketing degrees offered by Full Sail University is that these are full-fledged degrees, not certificates, with a work load (and price) to match. Students complete them on an accelerated schedule, with 25 months to get the Bachelor of Science in Internet Marketing, and another 12 months to get the master’s degree in the same area. You don’t have to take the bachelor’s degree to get the master’s degree, but naturally the college will want some evidence that you can complete the program (such as a resume).
The bachelor’s degree in Internet Marketing focuses on basic marketing, both the traditional and Internet varieties; it also covers web site design principles, case studies, ethics, intellectual property and copyright laws, search engine optimization, and much more. Most courses are four weeks long, and provide somewhere between two and four credits toward your degree. I’ll be touching on some of the highlights in just a bit.
Each student completes a final project that takes into account everything he or she has learned in class. For the project, the student must “research, develop, and write an Internet marketing proposal for a new business concept.” It involves “application of proper research methodologies, business writing skills and proposal preparation, and development of a financial report, various Internet marketing strategies,” a management plan, and a company web site.
It’s impossible for me to summarize such a comprehensive 25-month course in a mere four paragraphs. So let me quote a few highlights. In the IT Communications course, students learn to consider “the technological limitations of their company, and to understand how to communicate to the IT team properly about their technological needs.” In the email marketing course, students will learn (among other things) the advantages and disadvantages of email marketing, and how to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. The Internet Marketing Research Strategies course will teach them how to properly conduct research on the Internet for marketing purposes. There is also a course on pay-per-click campaigns, another on social media optimization, two on SEO, and, frankly, more than I have room to cover here. The full overview provides links to all the course descriptions.
The Internet Marketing master’s degree from Full Sail University, as I mentioned, is a 12-month program. In contrast to the bachelor’s degree, the master’s degree focuses more on strategies rather than details. To give you some idea of the approach, a graduate with an Internet Marketing bachelor’s degree from Full Sail might take a job as a Search Engine Optimization Specialist; one with the corresponding master’s degree might go for a position as an SEO Manager or executive director of marketing.
A look at the list of courses shows why. To give you an example, the bachelor’s degree covers search engine optimization; the master’s degree covers advanced search engine optimization, which explores “strategic approaches” for SEO “and how it can be used to develop and institute strategic marketing goals.” The course goes beyond explaining how to do SEO; it shows how to use SEO as one part of a larger marketing whole. “In addition to analyzing organic search methods, directory listings, and paid placement tactics, you’ll also study new trends in search engine marketing and SEO through course curriculum and case studies.”
As with Advanced Internet Marketing, many of the other courses cover the same topics as those of the bachelor’s degree, but from a different, more sophisticated angle. Others, while similar in title, have such a different focus that they’re obviously very different courses. For instance, in the bachelor’s degree program, the Digital Storytelling course shows students how to create digital content with specific tools. In the master’s degree program, the Business Storytelling and Brand Development course teaches students “how to implement brand-development strategies that help companies emerge as icons within their industries." It shows students how to create a mission statement, leads them through brand development case studies, and gives them the opportunity to examine Joseph Campbell, myth, and archetype.
As you would expect from such an intense course of study, students take a class on Internet Marketing Campaign Development, another on Strategic Internet Public Relations (where students learn to take a proactive approach), and plenty of analysis-related courses. As with the bachelor’s degree, most of the courses are between two and four credits (typically skewed toward the high end of that range) and four weeks long.
Again, as with the bachelor’s degree, the Internet Marketing master’s degree program at Full Sail culminates with a final project, but there’s an important difference. This final project includes a thesis. Once again, each student must put together an Internet marketing campaign, but the thesis must analyze that campaign. The course description explains how these two work together. “The Internet marketing campaign is to include all of the components that will ensure that the products and/or services reach the correct audience and achieve the desired goals of the client. The thesis component of this course is a comprehensive academic examination of the student’s Internet marketing campaign as well as a reflection of his or her experiences.” In other words, students finishing the master’s program should not only be able to create a marketing campaign, but analyze it to discover what went wrong, what went right, how to fix the problems and make the most of the good parts.
Before you run out and apply for Full Sail’s Internet Marketing degrees, there are a few things you should know. While certificates in Internet marketing and SEO are far more common, there is at least one other college offering online degrees in this subject: Rasmussen. I’ve hardly spent any time studying them or their program, so I can’t say how they measure up. Rasmussen offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, but not master’s degrees.
Another thing you should know is that, as full degree programs, albeit online and accelerated, Full Sail’s offerings will set you back some cash. The Bachelor of Science in Internet Marketing costs about $53,000. If you want the master’s degree, you will need to raise about $28,000. That actually compares well with other degree programs at the same levels. For those who qualify, there is financial aid available.
Should you pursue an Internet marketing degree – and should you pursue that degree with Full Sail? I can’t answer that question, since everyone’s situation is different. I can say that if you ever get the chance to tour Full Sail University’s campus, you should. And if you’re at all interested or curious, you should check out their web site. I’ve certainly found that their representatives are eager to talk to you about their programs, and if there’s something they don’t know, they will work to track down the right person to answer your questions.
Before you invest that much time and money in yourself, of course, it may be worth considering alternatives. There are a number of certificate programs in SEO that may give you what you want; as near as I can tell, though, they aren’t as comprehensive as what Full Sail offers. One of the instructors who worked on the Internet Marketing curriculum noted that they worked with people from Search Engine Strategies to get it right.
Another alternative for you may be a regular marketing degree, if you want to go (or go back) to college. But will such a degree give you the kind of focus you want? Large, established universities are conservative by nature; that’s not a bad thing unless you’re dealing with something that changes as rapidly as the Internet. By now, many of them probably realize that they need to offer something pertaining to marketing on the Internet, but how many offer an entire minor concentration, let alone a degree, devoted to Internet marketing? I could find only one other such program. If you want an intensive course of study to improve your real world skills in Internet marketing, Full Sail University’s degree programs may be worth a look. Good luck!