I sat down with Andy Nulman, co-founder of Just for Laughs to discuss how his new course, “Marketing and Society,” is stirring up a revolution in the classroom. Technology has profoundly changed our environment. Andy’s class is one of the few courses offered at McGill where social media participation counts towards our grade. The major project, equivalent to a final exam, is launching our very own YouTube channel.
What is the most prominent effect technology has had on education?
It opened the world. In my opinion, [technology] eliminated the need for traditional education and memorization. There is so much going on a daily basis. Why go back and memorize things from the past when the reality is at your fingertips? With technology, you have today at your fingertips.
In my time, I learned by text on blackboards and whiteboards. Overhead screens were ground-breaking back then. Today the learning is all real time thus creating a need for a different approach to education that teaches today’s tools and how to think in a new era.
How did you construct the curriculum?
The class is mainly based on the YouTube playbook. I have to be really careful from planning things out too much because the online world is constantly changing. I’m writing lectures in December that might be completely obsolete by the end of January! For example, even the sale of WhatsApp changes the vantage point of what we are doing.
I chose to focus on YouTube since it is today’s tool: it’s easily accessible, fun, and allows people with different skill sets to come together. You need to remember certain things are constant but in a business, art, and many other subjects within a higher education setting ideas are changing rapidly. How do you teach these subjects without taking into account the developments in the real world? I find it shocking that many professors use the same teaching materials year after year.
What do you hope to achieve in your class “Marketing and Society”?
To stand out and have a group of people who can say they did something unique. As marketers, we are creating a relationship with our consumers and that’s exactly what we are doing in this class. We took the concept of relationship marketing and built upon that. We are creating an experience that someone will talk about. No one is going to pass a test and show somebody else and maybe even make some money from it. In this class, you are going to make something that you are going to share.
At the micro level we are learning to use a popular social media tool. We’re learning about YouTube, the integration of YouTube as a marketing tool, and how this integration works. At the macro, we are doing something people will talk about, something they will be engaged with. The life lesson is the macro of the class: you need to do something different to stand out.
How is this class revolutionary?
This class is revolutionary only in terms of the context of the tools we use. These skills aren’t usually considered part of a university education but we use YouTube and Facebook all the time in our private lives. Embedding technology throughout the syllabus and encouraging the use of social media creates an experience that extends outside the classroom. For me, school was just means to an end. While taking classes I didn’t feel fully immersed in the experience. I believe you [students] need a different approach and appreciate the breadth of education we are given today. There’s more to it than always looking to leave.
Now that’s revolutionary.
In our interview Andy anecdotally mentioned his wife catching him communicating with us on Marketing and Society’s Facebook page during the late hours of evening. By bringing real life to the classroom and vice versa, we are trying to merge the two together and create a real relationship. Moreover, the class will continue beyond the classroom as the YouTube channels we spent the semester creating take on lives of their own after their April launch.
Looking towards the future
On March 28th, YouTube is expecting to hold their first educator lab to empower educators who want to integrate YouTube education into their courses. In the not-so-distant future, we might even be able to become “YouTube certified”. Why not? Technology has revolutionized education and created new needs. As a student in Andy Nulman’s class, I feel empowered to be part of something new and refreshing.
Visit McGill’s Marketing and Society page on Facebook to learn more!