Master of Communication Management | Persuasive Campaigns Webinar

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Persuasion in marketing and communications involves the ability not to just influence people’s actions, but their attitudes as well. Many businesses fail to realize that persuasion isn’t just about getting people to buy your product. Its compelling storytelling to attract, interact and ultimately convert the user. Join us for a discussion on utilizing the power of persuasion on your next campaign with USC Annenberg Clinical Assistant Professor of Communications Dr. Nithya Muthuswamy as we take a deep dive into persuasive campaigns of the past and how to unpack the power of persuasion on your next marketing endeavor.

Transcript

Phil Saloria:

Hello and welcome to the online Master of Communication Management persuasive campaign webinar, presented by the Annenberg school for Communication and Journalism from the University of Southern California. My name is Phil Saloria. I am an enrollment advisor for the online master of communication management program and I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your business schedule to join us.

Phil Saloria:

So, before we begin I would like to review what you can expect during the presentation. In order to cut down on background noise everyone is on listen only mode and if you’re experiencing any technical difficulties, please be sure to refresh your browser and if you have any questions for any of our speakers, please type them in the Q&A box in the lower right-hand corner of your screen and hit send. Feel free to enter any questions as you think of them and we’ll be sure to answer as many questions as time allows at the end of the presentation. Also, a copy of the presentation and recording will be available soon.

Phil Saloria:

So here’s our agenda. Here’s a quick look at what we will be covering. First I will be introducing Neil Teixeira, our director of distance learning for Annenberg who will share some information about the university and the program. And then introduce our speaker Nithya Muthuswamy. I will then go over next steps in admissions requirements. Then lastly we’ll end the presentation with a brief Q&A session. So let’s begin. Hi Neil. Thank you for joining us today.

Neil Teixeira:

Thank you so much Phil. I appreciate it. And thank you once again to everyone that is taking time out of their busy schedule to attend our webinar today. I’m looking forward to sharing some helpful information about USC, the Annenberg School, and many of the outstanding elements of the online master of communication management program including how you can start an application for our summer and fall semesters today.

Neil Teixeira:

Again, my name’s Neil Teixeira. I’m the director of online learning at the USC Annenberg School. I’ve been working in online learning for about 20 years at USC primarily. And also I’m an alumnus of the USC Annenberg Master of Communication Management program, the on campus version of the program that I went through before the online program was created back in 2011.

Neil Teixeira:

In part, it’s been a labor of love because I was an alumnus of the program and worked in online learning and wanted to bring this program to professionals everywhere. So I feel very connected to it and I’m really happy to share some information about it with all of you today.

Neil Teixeira:

You’ll also hear from professor Nithya Muthuswamy, an assistant professor of communication at the USC Annenberg School. Nithya’s interests focus on communication that transcend cultural and national boundaries. She earned her masters and PhD in communication from Michigan State University and her research has critically examined the use of fear appealing as a strategy, or fear appealing as a strategy in promoting HIV/AIDS in Namibia. I’ll also mention that we have Nithya who teaches our core course called Uses of Communication in Research. So she is typically among the first instructors our students have in their very first core course.

Neil Teixeira:

And she also teaches our capstone course, CMGT 510, Communication, Values, Attitudes, and Behavior which she’ll talk a bit more about today in her presentation on persuasive campaigns. Very thankful to have her today.

Neil Teixeira:

So let’s start off by talking a little bit about USC and the Annenberg School. USC was founded in 1880, back when LA was a small but growing Western outpost. Since then, the University of Southern California has grown to become one of the world’s leading private research universities. USC has regularly enrolled more international students than any other American institution of higher learning, and holds research based education that can be applied to professional practice as a cornerstone of our institution.

Neil Teixeira:

In keeping with this, USC has long been a pioneer in distance education, offering master’s level classes to professional engineers via satellite video as early as 1972. The USC Annenberg School is proud to continue that pioneering tradition by offering our fully online MCM degree to communication professionals all over the world. USC Annenberg was founded in 1971 through the generosity and leadership of Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg. You may know him better as the creator of TV Guide 17 magazine and through his family’s long legacy of supporting public television and the arts.

Neil Teixeira:

Today USC Annenberg is renowned for its innovative approach to communication, teaching and research, and serves as an international hub for scholars and professionals in communication, public relations, journalism, public diplomacy, media and education. The online master of communication management enables the USC Annenberg School to deliver the same high quality educational experience in a rigorous, engaging and collaborative way.

Neil Teixeira:

By the way, that picture on the slide is of our graduating class from 2018. And it’s our annual graduation barbecue prior to commencement. Now, we also host an annual reception and tailgate for homecoming. And we’re hoping that as health and safety conditions improve, we’ll be doing these events again very soon. We have that there to remind you that even though this is an online program, we do have you come to campus for special events that are catered specifically to you. They are not required events, but we really love it when our students come together, meet each other in person, celebrate, explore USC campus, and enjoy some time together with their faculty and friends.

Neil Teixeira:

Before we discuss the program in more detail, I would like to briefly share USC’s accreditation and ranking information which reflect the university and the school’s commitment to excellence in higher education. USC and the online master of communication management program have both been reviewed and accredited by WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and USC is currently ranked in the top 25 among national universities by US News and World Report.

Neil Teixeira:

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal’s comprehensive 2020 college rankings placed USC in the 18 spots nationally and third among all Western institutions, and the QS World University Rankings rated USC Annenberg the top institution for Communication and Media Studies in the US, and the second highest ranked University anywhere in the world.

Neil Teixeira:

Now we’ll turn to the program’s curriculum and some of the advantages you’ll have as an online USC Annenberg student. The Master Communication Management has been designed for both early career and experienced working professionals. Everyone you’ll be taking classes with play a role in your learning, you’ll share your work experiences, you’ll talk about issues that you’re currently facing at the job, and you will get as much of the people that you are going to class with, as you will for your instructors.

Neil Teixeira:

Our program is done cohort style, which means that you will go through the program with the same… That you’ll go through this program with similar groups of people over the course of your classes. Typically, each class is divided into sections of about 20 people on average. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll have the same 20 people all the time. But everyone will have gone through the same core courses that you have gone through.

Neil Teixeira:

You can complete the program in less than two years, 16 months to be exact. And this is important we found for working professionals, you have a lot on your plate, you have a lot of responsibilities at work, at home. We know that taking classes will add considerably to that load. So we know it’s really important for you to get through a program like this as quickly as possible. And we think that completing the program two classes per term in about 16 months is the best way for you to achieve your goal of earning a USC master’s degree.

Neil Teixeira:

What does the MCM mean? This is a management degree for communication professionals. We operate from the understanding that communication is at the center of every enterprise. We believe that communicators shape and change the world. This degree is offered so that communicators like yourselves feel empowered to lead within your organization. This is going to be a rigorous online program, you’ll be able to immediately apply to your professional career. We don’t want you to think that online is easy or synonymous. We want you to think that online is valuable and rigorous, challenging you to think and expand your perspectives.

Neil Teixeira:

We have a state of the art course design, and a learning platform integrated with social tools that encourage personal and professional networking. The feedback we’ve received from hundreds of students and alumni has been terrific. They’re really getting what they want out of the program. And we think that you will too. The online learning management system that we use makes connecting with others in your class and your professors extremely easy. And you will have a network of people all around the country and in some occasions around the world. And you’ll be able to maintain this network long after you’ve completed your program.

Neil Teixeira:

We found that the learning is phenomenal online, because at our on campus program, when you come to class for three hours the class works and moves at a particular pace, and you’re forced to move at that pace. In the online program, you’re actually able to cover far greater material at far greater depth, because you’re working on it more incrementally.

Neil Teixeira:

Of course you’ll also be working in groups in this program, and working with your colleagues and your cohort on a regular basis. We think that’s an extraordinary advantage of our online learning program. Because the ability to work in virtual teams has become central in our modern workplaces. I’ll briefly touch on some learning and career opportunities. We expect that students will gain these skills to enable them to analyze complex business and communication problems, utilize critical thinking, writing, presentation, and all advocacy techniques, gather and analyze research to improve decision making within their organizations, and design communication plans that have a global perspective.

Neil Teixeira:

Our graduates are placed all over the career map, in management, training and development, public relations, advertising, promotions, sales, many are CEOs, executive vice presidents, we have folks working in sports, in tourism. And pretty much every single industry that you can think of is because as we’ve said, communication is at the center of every modern business.

Neil Teixeira:

And we know that our students are hiring other students. And connecting within this program will provide you several advantages, a better understanding, other career options, and people working in fields that may interest you, or maybe be a bridge to a future career opportunity. And we’ve seen this happen numerous times within this program, where students work together in groups, learn a bit more about each other, see an opportunity within their organization to hire someone with talent, and find that talent, sitting virtually beside them in class one day, and offering them an opportunity to apply for a position that in many cases students will pursue and take and use that connection to further enhance their career.

Neil Teixeira:

In addition to that, Annenberg has robust career development services. In addition to USC central career development services, so Annenberg services focus more specifically on our communication, journalism, public relations, public diplomacy students, and have custom tailored opportunities simply for them.

Neil Teixeira:

Let’s talk about the classes that you’re going to be taking and the curriculum you’ll engage in. Our curriculum is designed to give you an advanced applied skill set in the areas of strategic organizational communication, marketing communication, and market research and analytics. Essential Skills you can employ to your advantage anywhere your career takes you.

Neil Teixeira:

The way the program is set up, students will optimally take two classes per semester. Everybody begins with the core research class, uses a communication research or CMGT 540 and the core management theory class, management communication or CMGT 500. You’ll also take a key communication strategy course CMGT 502, and a market research and analytics course during your tenure in program.

Neil Teixeira:

We believe that possessing these core research and analytics skills combined with applied theory and management strategy will make you a powerful agent in your organizations. Additionally, you have an option of selecting a Capstone course, CMGT 510, communication, attitudes, values and behavior which Professor Nithya Muthuswamy will discuss in more detail shortly, or CMGT 597, a communication research practicum, which is essentially a project that students take under faculty guidance, that focuses on a topic area that they choose, and allows them to expand that research into something of a portfolio piece that they can apply to their organizations.

Neil Teixeira:

So this is a heavy lift and we have lots of talented students who choose this option because they see a great value in it. But you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to do this independent research, you could do CMGT 510 the capstone course that allows you also to customize your experience to suit your specific focus area needs without having to do the independent research of the practicums.

Neil Teixeira:

Within our program, we have three main areas of focus and a generalist option. We have the marketing communication area focus, strategic and organizational communication area focus and the market research and analytics area focus. You will choose this area of focus after your first semester, you’ll take your core courses in that first term. And after that you can choose whether or not you want to pursue an area of focus with a customized course plan. So you become more specialized in marketing, communications, strategic and organizational communication, or market research and analytics.

Neil Teixeira:

Alternatively, you can choose to be a communication management generalist and there’s a course plan that gives you an array of courses from those areas of focus as well as some in public relations, so that you can have a broader breadth of skills to apply to your future career. Your enrollment advisors will have more information about the courses available in the area of focus. And of course, as you pursue the program, should you be admitted, you’ll learn more from our Student Services Advisors about why you may want to choose one area focus or generalist over another.

Neil Teixeira:

But due to our limited time I’ll refrain from going through every single course we offer, please follow up with one of our enrollment advisors for more information at the end of this call today. Now, I’d like to reintroduce Professor Nithya Muthuswamy who will talk about persuasive campaigns. Nithya.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

Thank you Neil. Thank you, everyone, for being here. I put it to you that so much of communication is in fact persuasion, isn’t it? Think about how much of our day-to-day communication is about influencing people around us, about something, or being influenced by others about something? It seems like we’re constantly trying to influence a particular target audience when we communicate with them. So for example personally, if your child refuses to go to the dentist, how do you convince him or her to go? Or you’re trying to convince your family member to start eating more fruits and vegetables, for example, right? Or even when you’re driving, we see a billboard, or we’re listening to a commercial on the radio, or we’re at home watching TV. And some of those commercials just stick?

Nithya Muthuswamy:

So why is it that some of them strike a chord with us? What is it that makes a persuasive attempt, such as a campaign memorable, professionally as well. You’re a part of an organization. And if that organization is undergoing change, how do we as managers, get our employees on board with embracing and implementing the changes that have been proposed? Or maybe your organization wants your help in designing and implementing a plan for your brand, so that it can get a facelift? How do you then create a campaign that engages the consumer in the true sense of the term? Or given the pandemic that we’re in, what if you are a social marketer, or a public health marketer, and you’re trying to get effective public health messages out to people in a way that’s effective.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

So, persuasion is very important, particularly from a communication perspective. And it is because of this, that we’re looking at the process of persuasion closely in this course. In this course, we view persuasion as an intentional attempt to impact the receivers of communication in a positive way. So when I say positive, it could be to either educate or inform them, or create or change their perception or their beliefs or their attitudes, or their intention towards something, or changing a norm.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

And in trying to do this, we begin to understand the use of campaign as a tool to effectively persuade our target audiences. So when we think of campaigns, particularly coming out of this past year, we think of political campaigns, but campaigns don’t necessarily need to be limited within the area of politics. From the perspective of the course we talk about campaign as being a purposive attempt to reach and persuade any segment of the population using a mix of media, as well as interpersonal channels.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

So the point here is that it is a concerted communication effort, which involves the use of multiple media’s and channels available to us with an aim to intentionally impact someone and that someone could be individuals, groups or even larger entities, that is what we are exploring in this course.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

And we do this because the point of the course is to help you understand why people respond to a message in the way that they do. So through this course, we’re conceptually trying to understand theories that inform us on how people receive information and how they process it. In this process, we learn more about why some of the persuasive attempts simply missed the mark, while others seem incredibly effective. And when we are able to get this, we begin to start having the knowledge and skills to becoming effective in persuading an audience. And that’s really the point behind this course.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

In terms of structure, just like all the other courses in the program, the overarching philosophy guiding this course is learning by doing. So you begin with having a basic theoretical knowledge in terms of your understanding of what persuasion is, and what really the attitudinal belief and behavioral changes involves, then you’ll start applying this knowledge and you have an option of analyzing existing campaigns of your choice. And you start beginning to unpack these campaigns that we probably wouldn’t have looked at from a theoretical lens and trying to understand the processes that went behind those persuasive attempts.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

After this, you will be exposed to an understanding of how the attributes or the qualities of a sender of the message, the features of the message itself, what’s being communicated, as well as the characteristics of the person receiving it, how do all of these influence information processing, and therefore persuasion.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

And then towards the end of the course, you are putting all this information together by proposing an original campaign of your own. You combine your interest, the focus areas that Neil went over with you, with the contents of this course. And the final product is your own campaign proposal. And this is useful for you to have in your portfolio as you attempt to look for jobs or advance your own career.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

So in short, I guess this course helps you gain knowledge and skills in applying persuasion using variety of channels that are available to us today. It’ll help you evaluate and understand when and how others are applying persuasive techniques. You will be able to analyze the ways in which a given persuasive context targets a specific segment of the population. The question I began with, why is it that some messages just bomb while the others resonate with us, we’ll be able to evaluate those reasons. And most importantly, you will be able to design strong campaign messages and create effective persuasive campaigns.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

And finally, I wanted to give you a sense of how this course fits in with the rest of the courses in the program. This course will allow you to incorporate elements from your own prior coursework, and your interest with the new content that you will learn from this course. So in that sense, whether your interest area is strategic and organizational comm, marketing comm, market research and analysis, or you’re a generalist, this course, will be of meaning to you, and it meets you where you’re at, I think that’s probably the way I would put it. And in that sense, it’ll add value to you both professionally as well as personally.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

This is what makes this course a capstone for this program, and this is the only capstone in this program. That is it from me. Now, over to you, Phil, for more on the admissions process.

Phil Saloria:

Thank you, Neil. And thank you Nithya. So regarding our admissions requirements, just so everyone knows, the entire application is available online. And you just want to make sure to request all your official transcripts from every school that you’ve attended. Also just know that USC has recently temporarily waived the mandatory university wide GRE requirements for the spring, summer, fall 2021 admission cycle. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about graduate school, now’s the time to take advantage of the temporary waiver. So I guess I’m trying a little persuasion myself there.

Phil Saloria:

Another part of the application process is to complete a statement of purpose, along with a writing sample, and all students will need to submit a resume showcasing all professional work experience, along with two letters of recommendations. I do want to share some admission tips. So communication with your enrollment advisor is an important first step, I would say. We are here to support you throughout the application process all the way into your first week of classes. Also, as Neil mentioned, just a quick note for students who are looking to get started in the upcoming semester, there’s still time to apply.

Phil Saloria:

Now is the perfect opportunity. Now, since the GRE is not a requirement for the spring, summer, fall 2021 cycle. Another good tip is just to make sure you’re following the deadlines and the due dates to submit your application in a timely fashion. And as always make sure to reach out to one of us with any questions that you might have.

Phil Saloria:

Next, I really wanted to take some time to go over any questions that anyone might have. We did receive a few already. So if you have any questions, please be sure to share them in our Q&A box. So I can make sure that we are able to address those. And we’ll get to as many as we can. So there was a first question Dr. Nithya, this was for you. It says, “Hello, Dr. Nithya, how would you describe your theoretical approach to your safer sexual health efforts Thaler’s Nudge Theory?”

Nithya Muthuswamy:

Yes and no. That’s an interesting question. The theoretical approach that I was investigating with regard to safe sex practices was the extended parallel processing model. So it’s kind of it does the opposite of really what the Nudge theory proposes, it was in your face approach. So I was trying to understand how people’s perceived [inaudible 00:27:25] towards contracting HIV and AIDS and their assessment of how likely they are to contract the disease impacts through healthy behaviors, safe sex practices.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

And it was interesting, what I found was there is something like too much fear. So what’s intuitive is, if only everybody knows what HIV and AIDS might do to them, then automatically that should lead people to adopt safe sex practices. And if you looked at a lot of campaign messages, that was the underlying assumption. And so my research showed that intuitive knowledge does not translate to the outcome that we’re expecting. So I was trying to understand what it is about EPPM that explained why messages failed in helping people adopt safe sex practices.

Neil Teixeira:

Dr. Muthuswamy, this is Neil. I wanted to ask if you could elaborate on some of the campaign’s that your students will analyze and kind of dissect in CMGT 510.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

Sure. Students, their campaigns that students have analyzed in the past have been everything from those classic short campaigns, the Smokey Bear campaigns, to some of the ads on Super Bowls that people are currently seeing and everything in between. Some of the campaigns are small. And some of the campaigns are those that have been fueled, or rather, even originated in social media. So everything from the We Too movement is what I’ve seen. And what I’ve noticed over the years is this course allows you the ability, like I said, to be able to pick, you know where your heart is, combine that with your professional background, and then analyze something that is relevant to you so that it’s not just yet another assignment, or just yet another course that you have to take to get towards your degree. It’s more than that.

Neil Teixeira:

Thank you.

Phil Saloria:

Perfect. Neil, we do have a question for you. I promised, well, I spoke to one of my students. And I said, I wouldn’t ask this. But a common question we get is what are some of the differences between online and the campus program? And since you’ve taken the program in person, and have experienced it online as well, how do you feel the online program compares?

Neil Teixeira:

It’s a great question. So I think online program compares very… Well, I think you’ll notice two major differences between the on campus and the online program. I’ll start with the most obvious one. Our on campus program has more options as far as courses that you could potentially take within the program. And that is because not every course that’s being offered on campus traditionally is offered online through a program. Although to be honest, the pandemic has upended that concept to some degree. And USC is still tackling with what the future of our online offerings will be. And hybrid offerings will be once we resume a more traditional residential experience for our on campus students.

Neil Teixeira:

But our on campus students have access to courses, largely in areas like entertainment and public diplomacy, and other key areas of study at Annenberg that they can take while they’re on campus. Whereas our online students have access to essentially the three main focus areas we described, strategic organizational communication, marketing communication, market research and analytics, and or the generalist option, which involves a couple of PR courses as well.

Neil Teixeira:

The idea is that we chose these areas of focus because they have the broadest applicability across professional sectors. So we knew these were the courses that we felt our students really would use immediately in practice. These weren’t more background preparing you for a career, say you want your first job to be in entertainment because you live in LA, and you’re going to USC, and so there are some courses in entertainment that may help get you a foot in the door while you’re taking an internship or whatnot.

Neil Teixeira:

But the makeup of our students is largely working professionals, people who have been in industry for several years. I think there’s another question. Someone asked [inaudible 00:32:13] what the average age of accepted students is, the average age has stayed around 33, 34 for some time, some cohorts that we may excuse a little older are 37, 38 others maybe a little younger maybe 30, 31. But on average, the program age is around 33, 34.

Neil Teixeira:

And that signals to us that most students, on average have been out of their undergraduate years, if they’re non traditional, that may not apply. But if you went to college or after high school, then you probably been out working professionally for eight to 10 years. And for us that’s kind of where we want to meet our students is, how do we enhance their knowledge? How do we enhance their experience with courses that are directly applicable to their careers and to the jobs they are doing right now. That’s why we focus on the courses that we offer, and why we’ve designed them specifically for an online audience.

Neil Teixeira:

So you may know that USC’s offering its on campus courses online right now, just like pretty much every college in America and most colleges all over the world are doing. But those courses have not been designed to be delivered online, they’ve been transitioned to online due to the pandemic, whereas our courses have been intentionally designed with which media and other types of interactive elements specifically for you.

Neil Teixeira:

The other element, very briefly, is that I think, demographics and who you engage with in the program is really important. And on campus, the majority of on campus students in communication management, and some of our other degree programs are students who are fresh out of undergraduate, I’m sorry, fresh out of the undergraduate program. And we have a large percentage of international students who are seeking a degree in the United States.

Neil Teixeira:

And most of these students don’t have extensive professional experience. There may be a demographic mismatch for you, if you’re looking to network with other working professionals, the online program provides that in spades. In fact, I would guarantee that you would build stronger, longer-lasting professional and probably personal connections in this online program than you would in your on campus program. And I say that from experience. There are fewer than a handful of colleagues from my on campus experience that I still connect with whereas I’m connected to most of our students somewhere other through social media. And our online students are doing lots of stuff with each other. Vacations, well, maybe not right now. But some of them were doing vacations on a yearly basis with cohorts from their classes.

Neil Teixeira:

We’ve had one student who presided over the marriage of another student they had met in the program. We’ve had some students who actually have gotten married and had children, we’ve had students who hired each other. The point is, and we have many alumni who come back to homecoming events to celebrate with new students, and to see old friends. The point is, they work so much during this program over 16 months to two years, they get to know each other really well. And they really like spending time with each other. And so they relish the opportunity to stay connected.

Neil Teixeira:

So you’ll see that in this program, if you’re looking for professional networking, as well as kind of interpersonal networking, demographics of the online program are such that you’re more likely to encounter someone you consider your professional peer, maybe your personal peer.

Phil Saloria:

Thank you Neil. Here’s a question that just came in. “My question is regarding how much applied learning we will have versus research theory, assuming we have a background in communication studies?”

Neil Teixeira:

That’s a great question for Dr. Muthuswamy. Having taught 540 and some of our marketing courses and our capstone course, she can talk about how applied they are.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

The program, all the courses in the program are designed in a way where you are exposed to content with an intent to apply, when you come in, your first course that you’re going to be taking is research methods. And it is really a methods course, where you are learning the tools that you are going to need for the rest of the program. In the courses that I teach, I direct the CMGT 510, I’ve also taught a couple of marketing courses, all of them have an applied component.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

So the intersectionality between theory and practice is you will be able to see that very apparently in all of the courses. So in the marketing class, the other marketing class that I teach, students are put in groups, and they get to work on a real live marketing problem on a few of the brands that we choose before we begin the class. And they compete for winning a pitch at the end of the course, I’d had groups in my class, not just in one term, but even at least three to four terms where they have at the end of the course gone ahead and presented it to the company that they have represented within the course.

Nithya Muthuswamy:

And there have been at least two teams that have been called by the company and people have got consulting gigs out of it. So my point is that it is a very close connect between what you’re exposed to in terms of theory, and how you are expected to apply it within the core structure itself.

Neil Teixeira:

I’ll add briefly that we often say to our students that even in our core courses, like 540, and 500, instead of two, you will be putting what you’re learning into practice, pretty much immediately. In the first three weeks of class, you’re getting up to speed, but by week four or five, you’re going to be learning stuff that you’re going to be able to apply to your day-to-day.

Neil Teixeira:

And we hear this from students all the time, they’ll write us emails saying, “I know you told me that I’ll be able to apply what I’m learning. But I just want to let you know that we had a consultant come into our office to talk about something and I knew what they were talking about when they’re talking about the research on our focus groups. I knew the methodologies they were talking about, I knew from what we talked about in 500 class about organizations, what our HR managers were or what problem they were trying to solve when they sent out this communication.”

Neil Teixeira:

So you’ll gain insights that you can apply immediately to your particular case. And we hear this from students pretty frequently. I think, maybe because they’re surprised that we really mean it when we say you can apply what you’re learning, you’re going to apply that theory to practice and that’s our intention, and you’ll be doing it right away.

Phil Saloria:

Thank you, Neil. Thank you Nithya. Another question came in here. “Hello is the schedule for online courses only offered at night? Are they a lot more limited in time slot versus in person classes?” It is a common question just regarding the live sessions, how flexible they are. So maybe you guys could speak to the live sessions.

Neil Teixeira:

Yeah I can talk about that. So our live sessions are scheduled, we think is kind of a window of time for most professionals who are taking our program in the United States. So most of our live sessions are offered in the window of five to, sorry 5:30, we all start at five, 5:30 to 7:30pm Pacific time. Most classes offer them in that slot. Some of them will also offer sessions based on student preference, they’ll take a poll and find out a little bit more about what is the most amenable window of time for the class and schedule around that.

Neil Teixeira:

But yes, our live sessions are typically offered evenings, Pacific time for about an hour weekly. And you’ll find that we have designed it in such a way that even if you cannot attend a live session, you’re able to watch a recording of it immediately following. Our live sessions for the most part are not mandatory attendance required, you’re required to view the live session and participate. And you can ask questions beforehand and follow up questions with your faculty member if you can’t attend live.

Neil Teixeira:

There are very few that are mandatory. Meaning that you are required to attend because you are typically presenting a midterm project, a group project to final project, there’s some sort of element that requires your participation during that live session. But we understand that as working professionals, sometimes week to week, your schedule may necessitate that you can’t attend.

Neil Teixeira:

And so we anticipate that, so you don’t have to attend every single live session, or be docked. So we allow you to watch the recording, which is made available typically by the next day, if not later that same night. So you can watch a recording at your convenience within that same week, we don’t want you to put off watching lecture until later in the week, because typically a lecture involves discussion, and engagement.

Neil Teixeira:

And so we want you to participate in that. Be able to ask follow up questions and learn from the questions and content that’s being covered there. But don’t feel like every single week you have to block out that time. And that if you can’t, that there’s no way you can participate. I hope that helps answer the question.

Phil Saloria:

Yeah. Thank you, Neil. And just to follow up on that, I mean, students are working full time. So they want to know what the workload is like, how many hours per day or per week perhaps they’re spending in classes?

Neil Teixeira:

Yeah and I’ll tell you, this program is not for the faint of heart. It’s a serious program. It’s USC, we expect to be rigorous, we’re not watering down anything. In some ways, it may feel like there is more demand on your time because this program is done online. And every little thing you do is kind of like homework, right? Because you’re doing it at home, you’re not setting aside a three-hour block of time to go to class. And that’s the only time that you’re committing.

Neil Teixeira:

There is of course, there’s reading, there’s discussion and board posts. There’s live sessions as we talked about. There’s group work. So connecting with group mates and engaging our ideas and working through collaborative projects, asking questions at your faculty who are very accessible, our faculty try to respond as quickly as they can usually within 24 to 48 hours, the student questions and follow up.

Neil Teixeira:

But I would say that if you are looking at taking this program, you should prepare yourself to dedicate somewhere between 12 to 15 hours a week per class. And I know that’s not insignificant. But the reality is that if you want to succeed in this course, if you want to succeed in this program, you’d have to set aside time to do and not just time on the weekends, but time nightly, or in the mornings, or as you find time during your lunch hour, breaks and other ways to do the work that is required to be successful and that includes keeping up with the reading, asking questions, attending live session, doing assignments, and collaborating with your roommates.

Neil Teixeira:

So I wouldn’t put it past it that students will spend somewhere around 25 hours a week total for two courses. That’s not uncommon. But you will also see that some weeks your load will be higher because it’s midterms or finals or something like that. And other weeks it’ll be much lighter, because the load is lighter in weeks where major assignments are due or major collaboration with your teammates is not required.

Phil Saloria:

Thank you, Neil. Another common question we are asked is, do online students have the same access to the campus resources as on campus students do?

Neil Teixeira:

Largely yes. USC has made great strides in virtualizing a number of resources that are available to on campus students and made those available to online students. There are a few I think that are still in the process of being virtualized. But the reality is USC is operating in a virtual context right now. And so the same services that are available to our on campus students online are available to our online students online. And even things like access to discounted tickets, to sporting events or local events. If you want a season pass to go to USC football games or basketball or anything else that is of interest to you regarding USC athletics, you’re able to access that same level of discount or service as an on campus student would.

Neil Teixeira:

Same thing with the libraries, the libraries are yours to use for research and for just your general education and pleasure. So whatever it is that you want to check out from the library is available for you to check out. There are some special collections that are available, essentially in person only. But our librarians will make great efforts to make sure that they can produce typically a copy of something like that virtually so that you can access it if it requires that you need it for research.

Neil Teixeira:

In fact, our libraries will ship you a book, free of charge with return shipping included for your research, if you need it. So if it’s not available in digital copy, they will send you and mail you the book. And we’ve been doing that for years at USC. So the answer is yes, we strive very much to ensure that our online students, our remote students have access to the same services, whether it’s insurance and health coverage and mental health support, wellness support, resources to athletics, entertainment, you name it, we do our best to make sure that our online students and remote students in general have access to the services.

Phil Saloria:

Neil it looks like there’s a kind of common questions about age, if it would be a factor or what is the average age, it says? Was my question and answer about my age factor as far as difficulty, age 51, recent grad 2019, 2020?

Neil Teixeira:

No, it’s no factor at all. I mean, the only factor really is your commitment, your energy, and your desire to want to learn and succeed and be part of this community of Trojan learners. We’ve had students who have come into the comanagement program from career… We’ve had a student who came in after a career in screenwriting. And his goal was just I wanted to get a master’s in communication at Annenberg. And this program was the right one for me, online, I think he was 72 at the time when he applied, and no problem whatsoever. The technology we use is not complicated. It’s pretty straightforward. It takes some time to adjust to the flow of learning online, if you haven’t done it before.

Neil Teixeira:

And we use technologies like Zoom, which probably many of you now are very familiar with, before Zoom was kind of a novelty to students. But now it’s not since everyone’s pretty much using it to keep in touch with family and friends, and to do work. So I would say that the technology shouldn’t be a reason for you to feel anxious. And your age shouldn’t be something you’re worried about. Because we have students that run the gamut from a couple years out of undergrad 22, 23, 24 years old, to students who are just coming back to accomplish a lifelong goal after a long career, they’re not really looking to do career advancement, but to really to… Or their own self advocation, getting the degrees that they’ve always wanted to have.

Phil Saloria:

Thank you, Neil. Here’s just a quick question. What is the faculty student ratio?

Neil Teixeira:

Yeah, that’s great. So, our model includes a lead instructor and section instructors for every single course. And almost all of our faculty have a PhD, or at a minimum, a terminal degree for their area. For example, there’s no PhD in public relations. So most of our faculty, the public relations level have a PhD either in something else or a master’s in public relations.

Neil Teixeira:

And so you’ll find that for most courses, you’ll have a course director or lead instructor who’s basically the person who designed the course, and serves as kind of the overseer of the course curriculum, and a content and subject matter expert, with a section structure who is also a faculty who teaches, usually both on campus and online, who’s a PhD like Dr. Muthuswamy, who leads a section of on average 20 students, and I say on average, I mean, that’s somewhere between usually 21 or 22, down to 15 students.

Neil Teixeira:

So maybe a little less than 20 on average, but the idea being that you’ll see your section size or your faculty to student ratio be at most 20 to one and if you include the fact that there is also this course director who’s engaged and involved in your learning, you could split that in half and say it’s closer to 10 to one.

Neil Teixeira:

But to be frank, you’ll be learning primarily from your section structure who’ll be overseeing your weekly teaching, learning, lecturing, and assessment. And so we try to keep the course sizes pretty, pretty small. So you shouldn’t be surprised to be in a section of about 15. 20 would be usually our largest size of a section, it’s where we usually draw the line on section sizes.

Phil Saloria:

Perfect. Thank you, Neil. Another question came in, what if we wanted to do two areas like marketing, communication or strategic organizational or a combination?

Neil Teixeira:

Yeah, that’s a great question. And what I would say is that, that sounds like you want to be a generalist, where you’re going to get a little bit of both areas. And so our generalist students will get that, they’ll get courses from strategic organizational communication and marketing communication. And of course, everyone has to take a market research and analytics course. So you’ll get that as well. So I would say that once you apply the program, and are admitted in that first semester, when it comes time to start thinking about what area to focus, take a look at the generalist, have a conversation with one of our advisors, and make sure that, that makes sense to you, and that you’re able to get the mix of courses that you’re looking for.

Neil Teixeira:

But we’ve designed it so that we hope students are getting the mix that they want. So they don’t have to choose just one area of focus. A lot of students do like that. They like to choose an area focus. And you’re right, we have a generalist for a reason. And that’s so you get a mix of at least a couple, it’s about more areas focus.

Phil Saloria:

Perfect. Well, I mean, it looks like we’re almost out of time. So if we didn’t get to your specific question, we’ll be sure to reach out to you on a one-on-one situation. And we’ll be sure to answer any questions that you might have. So at this time, I’d really like to just thank Neil and Nithya, for sharing all this information on the program and really does mean a lot to us. We’d like to thank everyone that is attending our live session. And hopefully you have a better understanding of what the master of communication management program does entail. And we hope that it helps you with your decision process. So at this time Neil and Nithya, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Neil Teixeira:

I’ll go real quick and just say that, if you have additional questions, follow up with an advisor. The advisors will direct questions to me or to Nithya is appropriate if you have specific follow up questions for either one of us. There’s plenty of time to start an application for summer. And you can also get started on an application for fall.

Neil Teixeira:

As Phil mentioned, USC is waiving testing requirements this year. So it’s a great opportunity to avoid having to do that. I know that if I was applying to graduate school again, I would love not to take that test. So it’s a great opportunity. And we wish you the best of luck in your application process. Looking forward to reading your applications when they come in.

Phil Saloria:

Thank you both so much. And again, just a reminder, a copy of this recording and slide presentation will be available in the next following days. Again, thank you for joining us. We hope everyone has a great evening.