Between a 5-course teaching load, presenting at a workshop for regional k12 teachers, committee work, and preparing for my upcoming summer course on the graphic novel, I haven’t had much time for blogging. But I find that it’s always good to stop and reflect on things, even when I don’t have an issue pressing my buttons or something I’ve read/watched/listened to itching for a response. I thought that this week, I’d reflect a little bit on something that I’m having to do for the first time–promote a class.
I have a distaste for selling myself or any of the goods that I regularly hawk as a college instructor, blogger, and tweeter. But, like it or not, sometimes it’s necessary to sell ourselves and/or our “goods.” I have a hard time convincing my oral communication students to sell themselves when they’re giving speeches and preparing for their public service campaign team pitches and interviews; they feel that doing so makes them seem self-important or overbearing. But sometimes, if you live in Rome . . . well, you know the rest.
If your university is like mine, proposals for new courses are not exactly encouraged. When someone in my English department does suggest a new course, that course is typically relegated to the May short-term (a 4 week, 2 1/2 hour four times a week bootcamp-style term) for a trial run. It takes a lot for that course, however successful it may be in the May term, to become a regular fixture during the Fall and Spring semesters. And, increasingly, it’s difficult to fill a May term course because so many students are now having to work and can’t fit such a time sucking course into their schedules and those who use their full financial aid during the regular terms cannot receive additional aid during the summer terms. Thus is born the need for your average, everyday college professor or instructor to become a kind of manipulative, smooth-talking ad man, trying to sell our innovative new class in the hopes that the demand will help us push it out to the masses as a regular offering.
And thus I find myself needing to sell my summer graphic novel class. Not because students won’t be interested in it. But because, even if they’re interested, that class is facing competition from their jobs, their bank accounts, and other classes that they need for their degree.
I’ve developed a three-pronged approach to advertising and creating hype about my class. In many ways, I’m taking my cue from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s peace campaign–combining attention-grabbing visual ads with a lot of verbal noise.
First, I’ve let my English colleagues know about the course and asked that they let their students know about it. At the same time, I’ve told my own students, both past and present, and encouraged them to spread the word. Word of mouth, I’m hoping, will help raise awareness with any students who might miss the visual campaign that I am waging.
Secondly, I’ve created some flyers that I hope will attract both hard-core fans and those students who have never read or heard of graphic novels. In several of the flyers, I use widely recognizable images–Batman and The Walking Dead–in an attempt to draw in students who might not be familiar with the graphic novel, but who have been exposed to characters from graphic novels via pop culture. I am placing these flyers in high-traffic zones around campus that see a mixed population of students. The second set of flyers emphasize the insider culture of graphic novels, utilizing images–a Guy Fawke’s mask, a blood-spattered yellow smiley face–and phrases–”it begins” and “watch for it”– that only those “in the know” will recognize. These flyers are being placed throughout the buildings in which English, art, and computer classes are held.
The next component of my campaign provides a point of contact for those students who are interested enough in the course to want more information and a way of knowing when it opens for registration. I’ve created a website with a teaser homepage (it simply has the course number and “coming to JSU May 2013″) with a list of texts we’ll be reading and a link to a course email list, where students can leave their contact information for updates. Once word of mouth began to circulate and my flyers were posted, I had several students come by my office when I was not in. So, my final step was to create a QR code that linked to the course website and post it outside of my office door (I used the free QR generating site GOQR.me).
Ideally, my course would sell itself. But this is the real world, one filled with competing responsibilities and opportunities. And the average college student only has so much time and so much attention. Sometimes, they need a little nudge. So, I suppose you could say that I’m less of an ad-man and more of a carnival talker crafting a ballyhoo, enticing students to step inside and take a look.