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A Conversation with Paula Morris at Salisbury University

Visit Paula’s profile here to learn more about the courses she teaches and awards and honors.

Hi Paula! What's the elevator pitch for ourfirstjobsearch.com, both from the perspective of a visitor to the site, as well as from the perspective of the students working to make it great? 

We designed ourfirstjobsearch.com as a helpful, friendly place for first-time job seekers. We hope it’s where people start when looking for job search information – no matter where they are in their journey.

For the classroom, ourfirstjobsearch.com is just one of the tools we use to learn digital marketing. The class is called Content Creation and Inbound Marketing. We create and test content, put it on the website and blog, and try to use Inbound marketing techniques to help our followers through their journeys. Truly, we’re more interested in the data we get using HubSpot.  The website and blog are the tools we use in the classroom so we can get the dashboard analytics provided through the back-end of HubSpot. Without having an online presence, we are simulating numbers, but with OurFirstJobSearch.com, the impact is real and measurable. I need the dashboard to get the awesome data provided by the HubSpot Platform. What I'm really trying to teach is how to analyze the data to make better marketing decisions. OurFirstJobSearch.com just gives us a place to experiment.

Sounds great. What are some of the assumptions that you had to blow out of the water when you made your first foray into ourfirstjobsearch.com? What most surprised you about this experience? 

Here’s a twist on the question you asked. As someone who has been in the classroom for 20+ years, one assumption that blew me out of the water was that my students - although tech savvy - really didn’t know more about digital marketing than I did. Thus, every semester we learn together. Once they get comfortable in a safe environment where we trust one another to experiment and improve on one another’s work, the excitement about working and learning is evident to anyone who walks into the room.

We all know that experiential education can have a significant impact on learning and employment - giving students ample material for a portfolio. What are some of the items that your students have been able to show after having worked on the website in your class? Any success stories? 

In addition to keeping the website and blog alive at ourfirstjobsearch.com, every student leaves my classroom with 4 industry certifications. Additionally, they have all created a video, infographic, and blog post on the same topic and then run 3 digital marketing campaigns organically building website traffic.  Many of them use the skills and certifications from this class to impress recruiters. “Take a look at this website, ourfirstjobsearch.com,” starts the conversation. Then, they follow up with “I helped make it.” The rest of the interview usually revolves around what they did, what they learned and how well their team worked together. Jobs and internship offers are not uncommon. 

One student started her first job and excitedly sent me a message that said, “OMG Mrs. Morris, I’m using everything we did in class at work every day!” She’s scheduled as a classroom speaker later this month. 

That’s amazing. It must be so rewarding. It can be really difficult to measure the success of experiential learning and assess (or grade).  What metrics do you use to determine the success of a student?

That’s a tough one! I’ve experimented with a variety of things. Sometimes, students don’t put in enough effort to create usable content the first time around. This semester, everyone creates a draft of the content. Students are on 3 person teams. Each team member reviews the work of their two colleagues. I provide a structured format for feedback and each student gets two reviews prior to submitting a final version for grading, then, use on the website. The team members all know it's their responsibility to get the best possible grade for everyone on the team.

I try to instill a feeling that the team has a responsibility to help others bring their best work to the team. So far, it seems to be working. 

Teamwork and checklists help with website management, too. Content is reviewed 3 times before publishing. After the 3-person teams get to a final version, the Storytelling team reviews everything for grammar and voice. They pass it to the SEO team for optimization and keyword checks. Finally, the Web team formats and posts content. It’s not easy. Experiment!

Are there any new developments in experiential learning that you are excited about? 

Experiential learning is a key focus for AACSB accreditation. That means academics believe experiential learning falls in the “Best Practices” category. The accreditation boards want us to provide students opportunities to learn while DOING. I feel excited and validated.

Paula - let us know if there is anything else you want us to know or talk about. 

If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be, “start small and be kind to yourself and your students.”  Remember we all learn by making mistakes… that’s the premise of experiential learning. If you are learning alongside your students and you are transparent about it, they’ll not only forgive your mistakes, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to learn real-world lessons. Give it a GO. Then share your successes and challenges with the HubSpot Community. We’re all in this together!