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Online program in Digital Content Strategy

Frequently Asked Questions about Online Master's Degree in Digital Content Strategy

What can I do with this degree?
The Master of Digital Content Strategy is intended to help students manage the flood of information in many types of organizations.
The data certificate focuses on finding and analyzing data, and then communicating the results in a variety of ways. It won’t provide deep statistical methods or systems analysis. Rather, it will focus on use of Excel and similar resources to compile and extract meaningful information, and then on use of other tools for visualization.
The social media certificate will focus on developing strategic plans for social media use, creating effective messages for social media, and monitoring those messages with digital tools.
This degree won’t lead to a specific career, but it should help anyone who works with communication and social media, and needs to use data in decision-making. This includes organizations like agencies, news organizations, marketing firms, educational institutions, and the communications offices of about any company.

Can I complete the degree in one year?
Yes, if you are willing to work on it full time. You will need to take 12 hours of courses in the fall and spring semesters. That’s just not realistic if you are working full time. The workload will be far too intense. If you are working full time, we recommend you work on one certificate at a time, completing the degree in two years.

Can I complete the degree while working?
Yes. We assume that most students in the program will be working professionals, and we have tried to create a flexible, meaningful program. Keep in mind that this is a graduate program and that the workload will be steep at times, especially because each course condenses a semester’s worth of work into eight weeks.
If you plan to work while you take courses, we recommend that you pursue one certificate at a time, and complete the degree in two years. It would be all but impossible to complete the certificates simultaneously in any meaningful way if you are also holding a full-time job.

Can I work on the degree full time?
Yes. You will have to complete Information Insight I during the summer, take 12 hours of courses in the fall and spring semesters, and complete Information Insight II the following summer. Keep in mind that you would be a full-time student if you pursue this option. See “Can I do the degree while working?”

What’s the difference between the degree and the certificates?
The courses for the two certificates form the heart of the master’s degree, but students may opt to complete one certificate or the other without completing the degree. You will still enroll in the degree program, but you can stop once you complete the certificate. 

Can I take courses for both certificates simultaneously?
Yes, but only if you are willing to work on the degree full time. See “Can I complete the degree in one year” above.

How do I apply for just the certificate program?
Even if you want just one certificate, you must still apply for the master’s degree in digital content strategy. Once you have completed Information Insight I and three of the courses in one of the certificate programs, you should submit an application for a certificate to the university. Our advising office can help with that.

Do I have to take Information Insight I?
Information Insight I is a prerequisite for those who plan to pursue a certificate or the degree. Students who aren’t enrolled in the degree program may take up to two courses in the program without having completed Information Insight I.

Do I have to take the GRE before I apply?
No. We do not require the GRE for application to the program.

What should I include in my statement of purpose?
This is your opportunity to make a case for admission to the program. Help us understand who you are and why you want to join the program. What is your background? What are your goals? What type of capstone project would you work on? How would you use the certificates or the degree in your career? Writing is important in your statement, just as it is in the master’s program, so please use care in creating your statement.

Can I take the courses out of sequence?
In some cases, yes. In others, no. You can take courses in the social media certificate out of sequence, although we recommend that you follow the schedule. Each course in the data certificate is a prerequisite for the course that follows, so you must pursue those in sequence.

Do the certificate programs qualify for financial aid?
It depends. All students who are accepted into the program will be considered master’s students. To qualify for financial aid, though, students must enroll in six credit hours per semester.

Does it matter which certificate I complete first?
No. You may pursue either certificate after you have completed Information Insight I. Keep in mind that the courses in the data certificate must be taken sequentially. You may take the courses in the social media certificate in any order.

What sort of work will the courses include?
Students will have a considerable amount of reading, just as they do in any master’s program. There will also be online discussion, exploration of digital tools, written assignments and other types of work. The program is intended to allow students to work on issues directed related to their jobs. We encourage everyone to bring in problems, questions, data and other material you want to explore. The capstone project for the degree will offer you wide latitude in exploring something you want to explore.

How long are the courses?
Each course is eight weeks long and offers three hours of graduate credit. We chose that condensed format because it helps students move through the program more quickly. That means, though, that the workload will be heavy at times. We are condensing a typical three-hour, 15-week course into eight weeks.

Do I have to complete a thesis?
No. This is a non-thesis program, but students pursuing the master’s degree must complete a capstone project.

Wasn’t there an in-person requirement for this program?
That was our original plan, but to reduce tuition and fees, we decided to make all classes online.

How much will the program cost?
Tuition for the program is $450 a credit hour. That includes all current fees, so it’s a flat rate per credit hour.

Will I have to pay out-of-state tuition?
No. Because all classes are online, tuition is the same for in-state and out-of-state students.

Why should I pay for a master’s degree when I can take webinars that have much the same information?
A master’s degree isn’t for everyone. You can find many excellent resources online that help you gain new skills. If those provide what you need, we wish you well. What our program provides is expertise, structure, and the backing of a major research university. You will work with instructors who have worked in major media organizations, who have conducted research in data communication and social media strategy, and who have years of experience in helping students learn. That’s what you are paying for.

I need to justify this program to my boss. How can I do that?
Here’s one way to think about it: The master’s in digital content strategy will allow me to explore problems and questions from my job as I pursue my degree. It will allow me to step back from the day-to-day routine and look at social media and data in a broader way. By working with faculty members who have experience in data communication and social media, I will gain valuable skills for my job and for our organization. I will also be able to bounce ideas off classmates and instructors and to integrate new resources immediately into my work. The program requires a final project that will serve as a capstone to my learning, and I plan to explore the implications of (fill in the blank).  

I’ve heard that online courses are easier. Is that true?
Actually, just the opposite. Online courses require a lot of planning and individual motivation. They provide more flexibility than in-person courses, especially in terms of timing and location, but the lack of in-person meetings means that students must pace themselves and provide more of their own structure.

How can I prepare for online coursework?
Components of Information Insight I will help with that. That course is intended to introduce you to the program, to help you think through your goals, to ground you in the basics of online learning, and to introduce you to some of the concepts you will need to apply in future courses.