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Educating tomorrows marketers
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Volume 28, Issue 7
The inspiration for this special issue emerged from the marketing education track of the 2009 Annual Conference of the Academy of Marketing, hosted by Leeds Metropolitan University. This conference track is always popular and lively, but 2009 was a vintage year, with 36 papers submitted. Such a wealth of material seemed to be a suitable foundation on which to build a special issue dealing with the challenges-facing marketing educators at the start of the second decade of the millennium. The timing seemed right too, since the last special issue of Marketing Intelligence & Planning dealing with marketing education was published in 2006 (Volume 24, Issue 3).
Of course, the submission of papers to the present special issue was open to all, and the response to the call for papers was gratifyingly large. Half of the papers published in this special issue are further developments of papers originally presented at the Academy of Marketing Conference in 2009, while the other half are unconnected with the conference. Although this outcome seems uncannily neat, there was no conscious selection process: it is simply the outcome of the normal double-blind review process that has to be used on a refereed journal such as Marketing Intelligence & Planning. This presents an opportune moment to thank all of those who reviewed papers for the special issue. The special issue has benefitted enormously from the considerable efforts put in by the reviewers; I know from my personal correspondence with the authors that they have found the review comments both detailed and constructive.
The papers are loosely organised according to the student’s “life-cycle” of engagement with university marketing education: before, during and after registering with a university. We have two papers that deal with students before they have fully embarked on their studies – dealing with their expectations and preparedness for a university marketing education, and their decision-making processes when considering where and what to study. Four papers address the question of what happens to students during their studies – dealing with the pedagogy of university marketing education. One paper looks at what might happen to students after they have graduated – namely, what employability attributes marketing employers are looking for. The final paper in this issue then looks at the question of “educating tomorrow’s marketers” from a slightly different perspective, namely that of the marketing educator.
Two papers in the special issue address matters that arise in the early stages of the student’s engagement with a university marketing programme, before they arrive or as they arrive at the institution. There is a widespread feeling within higher education that many students arrive at university less well prepared for university-level study than in the past (if you are not convinced of this then a swift trawl through the archives of the Times Higher should be persuasive). In her article “The changing body of students: a study of the motives, expectations and preparedness of postgraduate marketing students” Jie Liu of Manchester Metropolitan University provides empirical research on this matter, looking specifically at postgraduate marketing students. She finds that although the students are, of course, motivated by career goals and very keen to acquire the knowledge and skills required for a marketing career, they also exhibit high intrinsic motivation, such as the desire to develop intellectually and to broaden their horizons. Interestingly, there is evidence from Jie Liu’s study that postgraduate marketing students – and international students in particular – consider themselves under-prepared for their studies, and expect to receive substantial support in order to learn key skills such as how to write a report and how to make an effective presentation. In the second paper in this issue dealing with students as they prepare to join a university marketing programme, Helen Haywood and Mike Molesworth of Bournemouth University pose an interesting question: “are HEIs colluding with inexperienced student-choosers by appearing to provide ‘easy’ options that may speak to teenage daydreams rather than challenging prospective students-customers to consider the sort of personal transformation and intellectual development that a degree may preferably be about?” Their paper: “The uncomfortable mix of seduction and inexperience in vocational students’ decision-making” uses qualitative methods to explore the decision-making processes of prospective undergraduates about which degree, and which university to choose.
It is hardly surprising that the four papers in this issue dealing directly with educational practice – what happens to students during their programmes of study – all provide insights into approaches to teaching and learning that actively engage students, and that provide them with insights into the real world of marketing. Barry Ardley and Nick Taylor of the University of Lincoln provide us with a detailed account of the use of marketing research consultancy projects for clients as a learning medium for final-year undergraduate students: “The student practitioner: developing skills through the marketing research consultancy project.” They emphasise that in this way students can gain tacit knowledge about the realities of the marketing world which are otherwise inaccessible to them, while also learning about team work and developing their creativity. In “The avatar lecture: learning and teaching in Second Life”, Janet Ward of Newcastle University describes how she introduced the virtual world Second Life into her teaching of undergraduate marketing communications. This detailed account will provide the educator who is toying with the idea of incorporating Second Life into their teaching with both food for thought and practical advice.
In the work of Barry Ardley and Nick Taylor, and in that of Janet Ward, we find, first, strong evidence-based recommendations of these active approaches to teaching and learning and, second, sensible counsel that such methods are challenging to introduce, demanding substantial time investment from the marketing educator. Similar findings emerge from the research of Lynn Vos and Ross Brennan (Middlesex University): “Marketing simulation games: student and lecturer perspectives”. Their research shows that students who have played simulation games on marketing courses demonstrate high levels of enthusiasm and a strong belief that the simulation game is an excellent and practical method of learning about marketing strategy. While the educators who have employed marketing simulation games are similarly enthusiastic about this approach to learning, they also emphasise that to incorporate simulation games into a marketing course demands dedication and commitment from the teaching team, who have a steep learning curve to climb.
The fourth paper in this issue concerning pedagogic matters focuses on an innovative approach to assessment when faced with large student numbers. In “Large cohort assessment: depth, interaction and manageable marking” Emma H. Wood and Stephen Henderson of Leeds Metropolitan University describe an assessment task for final-year undergraduate marketing students based on participation in an online discussion forum about current marketing events. Emma H. Wood and Stephen Henderson reasoned that marketing students would be familiar with social networking (for example, Facebook) and that this familiarity could be turned to advantage by creating an online marketing discussion forum and assessing students’ contributions. As with several of the other papers in this issue, any marketing educator interested in developing a similar initiative will find enough detail here to see whether the approach is likely to work with their own class, and will be forewarned about some of the likely pitfalls.
Many marketing graduates wish to move on to marketing careers. The paper by Neil Wellman of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, entitled “The employability attributes required of new marketing graduates” takes a look at what might be required of them in the early stages of that career. This research, based on a detailed examination of job advertisements for entry-level and early-career marketing positions, indicates that a degree is commonly required for such positions, but that only around one-fifth specify a marketing degree. On the other hand, prior relevant experience was a specified requirement in around three-quarters of advertisements. No doubt, this finding will resonate with the many marketing educators (including myself) from whom students have sought advice on how to get started in their career of choice when “experience” is a more or less standard requirement even for entry-level jobs.
For the final paper of the issue, we turn to the perspective of marketing educators. In “Key issues in marketing education: the marketing educators’ view”, Monica Gibson-Sweet (University of Glamorgan), Ross Brennan (Middlesex University), Anne Foy (Academy of Marketing), Jacqueline Lynch (University of Westminster) and Peter Rudolph (University of Derby) report on a survey eliciting the views of British marketing educators about key teaching and learning issues. Their findings are compared with earlier studies of marketing academics and of other groups such as business school deans. Gratifyingly, the top issue identified by British marketing educators is “teaching international students”, a topic on which Jie Liu’s paper in this issue is very illuminating. “Designing creative assessment” and “active learning” were also considered high priorities in the survey reported by Gibson-Sweet et al., and both of these topics are well represented in this special issue through the work of Emma H. Wood and Stephen Henderson, Lynn Vos and Ross Brennan, and Barry Ardley and Nick Taylor. It is with confidence, therefore, that I commend this special issue to you, in the expectation that it will provide a valuable resource that addresses the concerns of marketing educators and marketing students for the coming decade.
Ross BrennanGuest Editor