How University of Louisville is Teaching Social Media to Communications Students

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The Featured Professor Series shares the stories of innovative educators teaching social and digital skills to students, highlighting their unique challenges and accomplishments in the classroom.

HSU Featured Professor BadgeCreating a social media campaign for homework? These communications students are working together as a mini-digital agency and gaining credit for creating and executing campaigns for actual clients.

Karen Freberg, Ph.D. teaches Social Media & Mobile Technologies in Strategic Communications at the University of Louisville, where she instructs students on how they can use social media strategically for public relations and communications.

Throughout the course, students learn how to think strategically about different platforms and their role in the current communications landscape. Working in groups, students create a social media campaign for a client based on the knowledge they’ve gained in class.

By taking advantage of HootSuite University’s Higher Education Program in her classroom, Freberg has students learn how to use the HootSuite dashboard and become a HootSuite Certified Professional in order to execute the campaigns they created.

HootSuite University’s Higher Education Program provides educators with everything they need to teach social media in the classroom, arming their students with the digital and social media skills needed in today’s workforce. To date, the program has been adopted by over 325 classes in 10 countries, and delivers free resources available exclusively to higher education professors.


Freberg uses HootSuite University’s educational content as a digital textbook for her class in order to give students the social media practice they’ll need, without spending ample class time on the fundamentals.

“The class I designed is not an introductory social media class, it’s more focused on the strategy behind social media. We don’t cover the basics of what is Facebook or what is Twitter, so HootSuite University is perfect for integrating the tactical into the classroom,” she says.

Creating Social Media Campaigns for Credit

Karen Freberg
Professor at University of Louisville

Freberg emphasizes hands-on training in her class, and has students working with real clients to gain the experience needed to enter the workforce and secure an internship or future job.

“I wanted to have students create campaigns for actual clients so they could go to employers with the training from this class in social media, but also show them an initiative that a client actually implemented,” explains Freberg.

Students were taught how to approach PR and communications strategically through in-class lectures, guest speakers, and readings, while learning how to manage a social media presence for business with HootSuite University’s hands-on social media courses.

One of the students’ clients was the University of Louisville Athletics department, where students ideas were incorporated into the creation of a social media hub, a second screen experience for athletics fans to engage with each other. The social media hub integrates multiple platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine, in order to bring fans together in an online community.

Social Media Hub created by University of Louisville students
Social Media Hub created by University of Louisville students

Nick Stover, Director of Social Media and Engagement for the Athletics department said that “Our fans who are posting to Facebook can now interact with our fans posting to Twitter, or if a fan doesn’t have Instagram they can still see the photos and engage with the content wherever they are.”

Stover added that “working with Karen’s class was very helpful to us. Students had a lot of enthusiasm and brought a different perspective, they helped generate ideas and gave us more insight into what their demographic might be thinking. They came up with some great ideas to implement that I hadn’t even thought of yet.”

Bridging the Gap between Practice and Research

Every assignment that students complete in Freberg’s class is designed to help them build their online presence and create a portfolio of work to demonstrate their expertise and knowledge to future employers. Students create and maintain a personal blog, write about social media and the public relations industry, and earn their HootSuite Certification.

“The class helps students develop a strong social media skill set to take with them in their future jobs or interviews,” says Freberg.

HootSuite University’s Higher Education Program includes free access to templated social media curricula to help professors integrate hands-on, social media training into their class. The Social Media for Communications curriculum teaches students how to use social media for public relations and communications purposes. By the completion of this course, students will be able to understand social media fundamentals and etiquette, create a social media campaign, enhance their personal brand online, drive traffic to their blog using social media, manage a social media crisis, and more.


“HootSuite University allows professors to bridge the gap between practice and research,” says Freberg, “We’re able to talk about the importance of research but we’re also able to talk about how to apply these findings. It’s a great program to bring these two together in order to prepare our students more effectively.”