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Nurturing Social Cognition in the Digital Classroom


Reducing social isolation in online learning

Social distancing has become an overused concept, yet remains a relevant phenomenon globally.  The education community has not been spared the impact of the need for social distancing .

Institutions of Higher Learning which have paid scant attention to online learning and teaching dynamics have been unceremoniously thrust into the digital world, leaving both students and teachers disorientated and focused on how to keep learning and teaching of subject matter going without too much consideration of the need to nurture social cognitive skills necessary for a well adjusted online learning experience.  As the IMM Graduate School has learnt over the years of online learning and teaching, online learning is more than just pulling your courses from the classroom to the digital space and teaching through webinars and asynchronous learning activities.

Attention should be paid to the social brain, especially for students who have been used to social contact in the education environment. The more informal term ‘social brain’ which in effect refers to social cognition, includes the quality of social interaction with others and the world through cultivating successful relationships. Social cognition includes inferential thinking and predictive thinking and is inextricably linked to other cognitive functions and academic performance.  This means that educators need to create a digital learning space where social cognition continues to be nurtured.

The importance of nurturing social cognition

Neglecting to pay attention to the student as a social being in the somewhat alien digital environment (for some), we risk losing students as they become discouraged and struggling  with a sense of disconnect, not conducive to meaningful learning and academic achievement.

Lack of social interaction can affect a student’s level of motivation and sense of academic direction.

How is social cognition nurtured in the digital space?  

The nurturing of social cognition requires the creation of opportunities in the digital learning space, for social interaction.  According to Vygotsky (1978), learning cannot be separated from the social context and social interaction.    This is even more crucial as higher education students are mostly the so-called Generation Z  or IGen, whose learning styles require theory to be taught in a real world context, in ‘3D’ in other words.    Lujan and deCarlo (2018) state, that students have an innate need to relate to others. They have a need to belong to a group.  They learn best when they can discuss and discover and when they can communicate multi-modally.  They need to construct knowledge by interacting with teachers and with fellow students. Gen Zers are more oriented to Transformational learning and teaching, which simply put, means active learning where educators create opportunities for students to interact with others through collaboratively engaging with learning content, encouraging critical thought, synthesis of information and innovative problem solving.  Collaborative activities provide students with opportunities to engage actively with what they are learning.  In the digital learning environment this can so easily be lost.

Vygotsky (1978) believed that learning is a collaborative process and referred to the potential learning which will take place, as the ‘zone of proximal development’ and which happens when educators create opportunities for collaborative learning. Students learn from their teacher and each other.

Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) in Bektashi (2018) state that their model, Community of Inquiry, facilitates an environment for critical thinking, enquiry and discourse among students. The Community of Inquiry module is a theoretical framework, which identified three elements needed for learning.  One of these is the social presence which promotes the idea that for learning to take place or knowledge to be constructed requires an environment allowing for interpersonal relationships to thrive and opportunities for communication in a safe environment.

So how do we introduce strategies to nurture social cognition in the digital learning space?

Cooperative and collaborative learning activities in the digital space, are effective means of allowing students to construct knowledge and create meaning of subject content together in a social space.  Schilbach (et.al 2013) state that the ‘primary way of knowing’ or constructing knowledge is through social interaction.

Students cooperate on a common project, each having clearly defined responsibilities and objectives contributing to the achievement of a common goal.  Can this happen in the digital space?  Absolutely!  Technology has come a long way with chat boxes, collaborative tools such as Padlet walls, iBrainstorm, a myriad of other apps, social media, and breakout rooms where students can meet and construct knowledge together.  These tools are often not considered in teaching online because lecturers and tutors are afraid to venture into the unfamiliar technology territory.  In avoiding collaborative learning and teaching and defaulting to the familiar comfortable lecturing to a screen, we hinder social cognitive performance, which includes nurturing critical and deep thinking during knowledge construction.

Reference list

Bektashi , L. (2018).  “The community of inquiry framework in online learning: use of technology”.  University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa.

Available from: https://techandcurriculum.pressbooks.com/chapter/coi-and-online-learning/  [Accessed on 11 September 2020].

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2), 87-105.

Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T., Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: A retrospective. The Internet and Higher Education. 13(1), 5-9.

Kautz, T., Heckman, J. J., Diris, R. ter Weel, B., Borghans, L. (2014). “Fostering and Measuring Skills: Improving Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills to Promote Lifetime Success”. IZA Discussion Papers, No. 8696, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn.

Kurt, S. (2020). “Lev Vygotsky – Sociocultural Theory of Cognitive Development,” in Educational Technology. Available from:  https://educationaltechnology.net/lev-vygotsky-sociocultural-theory-of-cognitive-development/  [Accessed on 11 September 2020].

Leong, P. (2011). “Role of social presence and cognitive absorption in online learning environments”.
Journal of Distance Education, Vol 32, 2011, Issue 1

 Lujan H.L.,  DiCarlo S.E. (2017)  “A personal connection: Promoting positive attitudes towards teaching and learning”,  Anatomical Sciences Education  vol. 10. No. 5 pp. 503-507.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.



Virtual IMM Fridays – Thomas Oosthuizen

Thomas Oosthuizen.

COVID: The force of nature or the force of choice?

Download the presentation PDF here

The show must go on

The show must go on - A behind the scenes view of the IMM Graduate School in motion web

A behind the scenes view of The IMM Graduate School in motion.

For five months South Africa has been in a national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has forced the world to adapt, including the IMM Graduate School. The IMM Graduate School has come up with multiple quick solutions to ensure as little disruption to students as possible. Because we are already a distance learning, higher education institution, classes were able to quickly resume online.

This did not come without its challenges, however. While we quickly adopted an innovative approach to moving students online there were a few challenges that our students and staff found, such as technical difficulties and lack of resources. Many lecturers have turned to other creative ways to teach online including other teaching tools and social platforms, which further engage students, ultimately with the goal of bringing students closer to achieving their final qualifications.

We realised that we had to make a few adjustments to accommodate our students such as:

  • Extending the submission deadline dates of assignments.
  • Finding an alternative solution to assist our students to still write a summative examination by making it a take-home, open book exam as well as the,
  • Provision of additional academic support to students on how to approach an open book assessment.
  • Adapting the exam timetable and extending deadlines by one week to allow more students to have the ability to complete the academic semester.
  • Additional resources being made available while also facilitating online tutorial classes to assist students to better understand difficult academic concepts.
  • Specific examination preparation online workshops to alleviate the additional stress levels of students and help them to better prepare for the upcoming summative assessments.

Our CEO, Dalein van Zyl, together with the Student Support team and members of Faculty worked around the clock to develop regular and consistent communication messages to ensure both staff and students remained informed about what was happening, what was going to happen and what was needed in the interim.

The IMM Graduate School created an online space to accommodate activities such as:

  • The provision and uploading of the final assessment paper for students to access and prepare for.
  • The uploading of a how-to-guide to assist students when they upload their completed assessment documents.
  • A check my work for plagiarism space with the same time and date limitations as the actual upload for grading title, and, lastly,
  • an upload for grading activity, again with date and time based on the Final Assessment time-table so students know when and where to upload.

We have processes in place to ensure all the variables and challenges throughout this process are addressed. A whole team is available to assist students to address any academic queries during the final assessment session quickly and efficiently. These two teams have to be available to address any queries during the entire duration of the 2 weeks from 8am in the morning until 8pm at night, and to address them quickly and correctly.

To ensure The IMM Graduate School stays on track, we have taken on additional markers to guarantee the marking of the final assessments are completed before the end of the semester so students have what they needed going into the next semester.

The show must go on and we at the IMM Graduate School are going out of our way to ensure all students can continue with their studies with minimal disruption.

Our students had this to say:

“I wanted to take this time to commend IMM on the amazingly progressive and accommodating way that the exams have been amended amid this Codiv 19 pandemic. So, flipping well done guys 😊 us students really owe you one  Caryn – student

“Today I want to share with the whole world how incredibly awesome IMM has been and is especially during this lock down.  During this lock down IMM has been at the forefront of online support and making it possible to finish my Honours degree online this semester.” Annelie C

 “Well done IMM with being highly innovative and prepared in this uncertain Covid -19 times. As a student based in New Zealand busy with my BPhil Honours course, I have been overwhelmed with what’s going on in society. Your innovative online portals, friendly and helpful staff and wonderful support to be safe and thrive in this time has made giving my best so much easier even from a far. Thank you for making my journey to success and safety so much more enriching.” Chazelle L.

 “I started studying towards my honours degree this year. With the COVID.19 outbreak, everything has become a lot more stressful, but IMM has handled everything so well and has offered great support to their students, ultimately reinforcing the benefits of online education. – Honours Degree Student, Catherine H

Written by Riana Prins, Head: Assessments & Learning Management System, Academic Faculty, IMM Graduate School of Marketing

The gig economy reenergised by Covid-19

The gig economy reenergised by Covid-19 web

The way people live, work and spend their money has changed drastically over the past decade, particularly with the rise of smartphone technology. Being connected to just about the whole world via social media, has created many ways to make and spend money and has given rise to the gig economy as we now know it.

The term “gig” is slang for job that lasts a specified period of time, most commonly used in the past by musicians. More recently however, this term has become more common when referring to a ‘freelancing’, ‘moonlighting’ or ‘side hustle’ situation where those with specialist skills make themselves available for side-gigs in addition to their full-time jobs. This activity has grown, and an entire economy has developed as a result where gigging for some is all they do, and the full-time 8 to 5 job is no longer required or wanted. According to Investec, 37% of US adults and more than 50% of millennials have a side hustle. Locally, Statistics SA’s employment outlook has found that temporary employment rose from 2.6 million in 2017 to 3.9 million in 2018.

A gig economy is best described as a free system which consist of temporary positions and independent workers for short-term commitments. It’s a labour market is characterised by flexible, on-demand work rather than the more traditional nine-to-five, office-based set-up. The gig economy includes freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires across all industries. While gigs can comprise anything from DIY work to landscaping and childcare, the real money lies in jobs needed to support the exponential rise of digital innovation.

So, while gig work is nothing new, when referring to the gig economy in its present format, it is largely driven by those with a skills set supporting new technology-enabled types of work or gigs. For a country like SA that’s facing massive unemployment challenges, the growth of the gig economy carries with it many benefits, providing job opportunities while boosting productivity.

 Pros and cons of gig work

Gig freelancers can work from wherever they like, whenever they like and for whomever they like.  The timing of jobs is also more spontaneous thanks to apps and websites that automatically connect people to deliver on requirements in real-time. Individuals can bolster their earning potential and realise their passion with side gigs, while businesses can tap into the sought-after skills they require, without the need to permanently employ staff.

There are many people who enjoy freelancing and not being tied down to one job. “Free agents reported higher levels of satisfaction in multiple dimensions of their work lives than those holding traditional jobs by choice, indicating that many people value the non-monetary aspects of working on their own terms”, (McKinsey, 2020). But we have to also keep in mind how many of these workers are people who are gigging out of necessity because they can’t get the full-time job that they’d much prefer.

Some say the gig economy empowers entrepreneurs, while others believe it’s just another way of exploiting workers. In most countries, only employees are entitled to the protection of employment legislation, such as being protected from unfair dismissal, and receiving minimum basic benefits such as holiday pay, sick leave and minimum working hours. Independent contractors are not offered such protection and their recourse is limited to what is contained in their service contracts.

But this may be changing too. For example, Uber has recently outlined proposals for a new type of relationship with “gig” workers, including its own drivers, that would keep them as independent contractors but with some guaranteed benefits. The move comes with Uber and other firms facing legal pressure to comply with a California law that would require its drivers to be classified as employees, eligible for unemployment, medical and other benefits.

Uber describes “a new model for independent platform work” in an 18-page document it hopes can be used as a blueprint for Uber and similar firms relying on independent workers. Uber has proposed that gig economy companies be required to establish “benefits funds,” allowing gig workers to accrue and use the money for benefits or paid leave. (eNCA, 2020)

Marc Kahn, Investec’s global head of Human Resources and Organisational Development, believes the gig economy can be a threat or an opportunity to business, depending on how companies look at it. Kahn believes the growth of the gig economy will drive a revolution in the definition of what a company is. “A company is real by virtue of those who are employed in it and some of the assets in it. But what if all the people employed in the company are employed as gigs? Where is the company? Where is the culture of the company? Where does the company begin and end? What about the notion of teamwork?” (Investec, 2020)

A recently published report by Fairwork Project in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford, Cape Town (UCT) and the Western Cape (UWC) evaluates the working conditions of digital platforms and ranks them on how well they do. It’s an Oxford University-backed initiative. “The research focused on the following platforms: Sweep South, M4Jam,Picup,GetTOD,NoSweat,Uber, OrderIn, MrD,Bolt and UberEats. Across contexts, Fairwork’s research has shown that gig workers face low pay (frequently earning below minimum wages), dangerous work conditions, opaque algorithmic management structures, and an inability to organise and bargain collectively. The Fairwork research shows that some platforms are actively trying to create good-quality work, whereas there is no evidence that others are operating with the same concern. One danger according to Fairwork researchers is a race-to-the-bottom that squeezes good practices out of the market,” (FastCompany, 2020)

The research also found that gig economy platforms benefit from a legal loophole that exists in South Africa, as in most countries, labour rights are limited to workers classified as ‘employees’. Digital platforms can avoid the costs and duties arising from employees’ rights – minimum pay, maximum hours, paid leave etc. – by classifying their workers as ‘independent contractors’.

Gig economy ideal during COVID 19 pandemic

COVID 19 has slowed down economies worldwide. People have been forced into lockdown and self-isolation to minimise the spread of the virus and major industries have come to a grinding halt. Before this pandemic, there were difficulties trying to figure out how some industries could make the transition towards a ‘work from anywhere’ culture, where technology was sometimes seen as a luxury as opposed to a necessity to get the job done. In many ways COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst, resulting in many industries adopting new remote ways of working.

This, it is believed will in turn fuel the gig economy. For the first time in the history of work life, we are seeing employers encouraging employees to work remotely albeit for a safer environment.

“The Covid-19 crisis has forced businesses in industries previously impervious to remote working to reengineer their work processes and bolster their technology support systems, which have been the traditional barriers to alternate work arrangements.  This provides a wide variety of natural experiments, that will provide a good starting point to organisations contemplating a switch to the gig economy model,” (Harvard Business Reviews, 2020).

In support of this, employees are finding ways to prove to their bosses that despite not being in the office, the work is still being done, and in some cases more efficiently as there are fewer meetings and distractions to consumer employees’ time. And employers are reaping the benefits of lower overheads as a result of smaller premises and employee consumables.

Those that have now had a taste of work from home freedom may choose to continue along this route in future.

 Here are some tips on how to thrive in the Gig Economy

Create a positive place– it’s important to create your own personal space which disconnects you from a corporate office. This will help protect you from outside distractions and the pressure that comes along with them. Find an open space that will help you to be creative but also allows you to be focused.

Find a routine– routines are mostly characterised as boring and safe but research has shown that by following a routine for example following a to-do list, keeping a schedule or beginning your day with the most difficult work, improves people’s workflow and effectiveness.

Have a clear purpose – It’s not always about doing work to find your footing in the market but sometimes doing work that connects you to a broader purpose. Purpose creates a bridge between your personal interest and motivations and fulfils a need in the world.

Engage with people – Social isolation can be a great risk for gig workers, therefore it’s important to engage with people (even if through online meeting technology) and formal peer groups which you can turn to for advice and encouragement.

Develop a work ethic – The quality of work that you deliver represents who you are. You no longer have a boss who constantly looks over your shoulder. Therefore, self-discipline is key. Set standards for yourself and live up to them.

Libations to the Advertising Gods: Raising a Glass to What We’ve Lost, and What We’ve Learned

By Antonis Kocheilas of Ogilvy web

By Antonis Kocheilas of Ogilvy on Jul 31 2020 – 3:00pm

Change is hard, but we have the chance to reinvent what we do

In ancient times, the libation was a ritualistic pouring of a liquid as an offering to a deity. It represented sacrifice; we give this up to you in the hopes that we’ll get something back. Something was lost, but something was also gained.

We have lost quite a lot through the first half of 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic’s spread across the world has radically altered nearly every aspect of our lives. We have lost loved ones, jobs, businesses. We’ve lost a sense of security. For those of us fortunate to still be working, we lost the physical contact with our co-workers in a shared space. We lost our commutes, that alone time we could use to refresh, ponder and learn. Not long after the pandemic struck, the world underwent a reckoning on racial injustice not seen in decades, bringing another inflection point for businesses and institutions around the globe. It is a fraught time. Major events such as these force us to rethink everything we thought we knew. While some of the resulting changes may be temporary, many of them will be permanent.

The advertising world is not in a unique position. Like every industry, its business has been greatly affected by the pandemic. In many ways, things will never be the same. This is a time for reflection, but also a time for action. So, let’s take this time to pour one out to the ancient gods of the industry previously known as advertising—let’s recognize what we’ve lost so far this year, but also what we’ve learned.

What We’ve Lost

For many of us, our jobs

Our clients across industries, and our partners in everything from media to live events, have been hit particularly hard by the crisis. Their trauma has led to inevitable loss for us.

Those of us who are able to continue doing our work are incredibly fortunate. The pandemic has affected every industry, and the advertising industry is no exception—it is expected that 50,000 of our colleagues and friends across the world will have lost their jobs through next year due to the economic crises caused by Covid-19.

“Our principle is: protect our people to protect the company, so we’re ready when we come out on the other side of this,” said WPP CEO Mark Read. “But realistically, we have to expect there will be layoffs.”

We can only hope that we emerge on that other side sooner rather than later.

Our excuses for not doing the right thing on diversity and inclusion

The news story that finally took the coronavirus off the front pages across the globe was a tragedy—the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in Minneapolis. The size and scope of the protests against racial inequality and police brutality made it clear—this was an inflection point for everyone. Us included.

Our industry can no longer hide behind vague diversity plans or plaudits of our so-called progress. It’s not been nearly enough. We simply must do better.

Amid the protests, over 600 Black advertising professionals penned an op-ed calling for immediate change in the industry. There is not much we could add to their words:

“We have seen even less progress in ensuring equitable representation of Black professionals in senior and leadership positions. And because this industry does not release or track diversity numbers, it is impossible to tell what, if any, progress has been made. Worse still, there is a ‘boys’ club’ mentality that remains pervasive in this industry. The same elitism and discriminatory behavior that has restricted women from advancing in the workplace has resulted in an oppressive mono-culture that stifles the growth of Black agency professionals and restricts our ability to express our true selves. Many gallons of ink have been spilled on op-eds and think pieces, but tangible progress has eluded this industry for too long.”

Conventional ways of working and analog rituals of the past

Are we saying goodbye, for good, to the office? To the in-person meeting? To the convention?

Whenever the “end” of our current situation arrives, it’s certainly likely that there will be an urge to return to some semblance of normalcy. Humans are social beings, and video calls can only go so far in replicating the experience of sharing a space with others. But there’s no doubt that the forced shift to remote working has opened many people’s eyes to its benefits. And with likely cost savings involved, there is no doubt that remote work will only grow, if not be a permanent change for some.

And the intimate, stripped-down, gritty nature of remote work has resulted in some impressive work, created in transformative ways. Automated production has led to record turnaround times, with some ads that used to take three months to complete being finished in a week’s time. Creativity is at its best when there are fewer restrictions. Over recent years, many in our industry have instituted too many checks and balances that don’t serve a purpose. The shift to remote work has forced our industry to undergo a change that it has needed for a very long time.

Our creative yardstick

Sure, Cannes Lions and the Clio Awards—both of which were postponed until 2021—are award shows, and there’s plenty of great work that never wins an award. But it’s what those awards represent—a creative benchmark, a yearly yardstick for which the industry can use to measure itself. And creativity still matters greatly. The more creative a company is, the better it performs.

Many think Cannes is nothing but an overblown, overhyped, overcrowded party. It surely seems like the festival’s luster has been muddied over the last few years, what with the exodus from competition from some of the biggest names in the agency world. But that sentiment was always misguided, and the lack of a festival this year proves it. With each year that passes, we get a literal in-person view at how the industry is changing; something we’ll miss out on this time around.

What We’ve Learned

Our work matters

This crisis comes at a time when trust in government and institutions is already the gutter. Even months into the pandemic, Covid-19 continues to spike across the United States and many countries around the world. There’s no question there’s a leadership void to be filled, and brands can be among those to step in.

It’s not only marketing professionals who believe this. According to Forbes and MediaPost, 43 percent of millennials believe brands play an “important” role at this time and indicate a desire for them to step up their support. In fact, one in four think they have power to be as impactful as the government. One in three say brands should even communicate more than usual; half say the current context needs to be addressed in advertisements, and 83 percent want brand initiatives that help now, not later.

But amid the Covid pandemic and the outcry for racial justice, many brands have been guilty of promoting seemingly empty platitudes. Sending an email blast to all of your customers or putting out a statement on social media might seem like the right thing to do, but it must be credible. If the brand is not acting on its stated purpose, these ads—and they are a form of ad—will come off as contrived at best and tone-deaf at worst.

“Some of the most hollow creative executions have come from brands who appear to be treating the crisis simply as an advertising brief, rather than an opportunity to use their commercial power to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives,” writes Richard Holmann. “Even during a pandemic the golden rule of brand purpose still applies—unless you have a credible, demonstrable and longstanding commitment to the purpose you’re endorsing, which stretches way beyond an ad campaign and actually costs you money, don’t even go there.”

Brands can be leaders in a multitude of ways. One way is by simply doing more—providing practical help to solve problems. Acts, not ads. As Sarah Douglas, CEO of AMV BBDO in London, puts it: “We’ve seen brands such as Bacardi use their distilleries to make hand sanitizer, Dove donating personal protective equipment directly to healthcare providers, and Guinness pledging funds for bartenders who have lost their livelihood.”

Effective communications are also needed, though. The United States, in particular, is struggling with convincing its population to wear face coverings. Effective communications can act as rallying cries, promote unity and ultimately help shift behavior. Olivier Feldwick at WARC likens this moment to wartime, where famous slogans like “Your Country Needs You,” “Dig For Victory” and “Make Do and Mend” helped boost morale. “We will need a similar effort in our collective Covid-19 response, and communications must play a critical role in encouraging the right behaviours.” He may be right.

Brands have a great responsibility

Prior to the pandemic, we knew that brands held lots of power. The biggest among us could shift consumer behavior or push culture in a different direction. The industry talked often about the importance of brands having a purpose that went beyond simply selling more products. With a global leadership and credibility gap, brands now find themselves with even more power, and with that comes the requisite responsibility.

According to The Trust Barometer, 62 percent of consumers agree that we will not make it through this crisis without brands playing a critical role in the solutions. And eyes are on brands now more than ever. More than half (53 percent) of consumers who are disappointed with a brand’s words or actions on a social issue complain about it. People recognize brands like Gap and Dove when they live their values, helping manufacture protective equipment for healthcare workers or hand sanitizer. On the flipside, you don’t want to end up in the red on didtheyhelp.com.

This time of crisis and a racial justice reckoning is validation that the strongest brands are the ones that authentically live their values and purpose. Part of that purpose is taking on the responsibility of being a communicator in a time when government leaders do not seem to be willing or able to provide it.

Brands can be powerful influences in people’s lives. This is true in “normal” times, and doubly true in times of crisis.

A crisis can bring out an industry’s best self

When we’re all facing a collective crisis like Covid-19, the problem to be solved is very well-defined. The variable factor, then, is the skills and knowledge individuals can bring to bear. The changes that have been forced upon those in the industry have placed even more importance on company culture—if your culture is tethered to your physical location, how strong was its bond to begin with? In some ways, we’re becoming closer with our colleagues and partners, being invited into their homes, meeting their pets and children. In many cases, it’s leaders that are doing the most learning, as employees are being given more control over their work schedules and processes.

“Darwin wrote when he was building his theory of evolution that natural selection favors a sense of flexibility,” said psychologist Adam Grant. “It’s not always the strongest species that survives; it’s sometimes the most adaptable.”

In regular advertising life, the urgent and the important are often very out of sync. The most impactful work we can be doing sometimes ignores firm deadlines. But during times of crisis, creativity tends to thrive. Empathy spurs creativity, and when people see that meaningless constraints are off, they tend to feel freer to be creative.

In the advertising world, this has resulted in new ways of working that point to a future that puts creativity back at the center of the ad world. The advertising industry’s creativity hasn’t only helped clients solve problems in this new age. The industry has pointed that ingenuity inward—as we mentioned, gone is the old way of doing things, where one ad might take months to create. Now, we can make an ad and distribute it in record time.

Digital transformation is not optional

Necessity is the mother of invention. Times of crisis bring drastic change, forcing the entrenched to dig itself out of its staid foundation. The old ways of doing things have to go.

Some companies are better equipped than others. Any company that was still behind the digital curve is finding itself in quicksand. This mostly digital landscape is not unexpected, it’s what the industry has been preparing for for years now; however, it’s arrived much sooner than we thought. Companies that have strong direct response and e-commerce capabilities are well positioned to emerge set up for success in this changed world.

Even when confinement measures are relaxed, more typically analog channels will shift to digital to keep up with consumer behavior. Those who are already meeting consumers where they are have the advantage of the data they’ve gathered along the way, giving them a leg up when it comes to trying to stay ahead of coming behavior shifts.

But most of all, prioritizing creativity and innovation will prove to be prescient.

As Brian Wieser, global president, business intelligence, for GroupM describes, “Companies will find that there’s never been a better time to pitch ideas that involve real transformation. People will be more open minded, and we’re going to see businesses find ways to push transformation even faster.”


It’s been said that you should never let a serious crisis go to waste. The chance is there for us. If we leave this crisis and finish this year believing we should return to the industry as it was, we will have lost the train.

The industry previously known as advertising has spent so much time transforming the brands and businesses of our clients that we have left ourselves behind. This is a time of massive change, and represents an incredible opportunity for us to transform ourselves. It’s a time to practice what we preach. If we do, only then will we truly be in position to serve our clients better in a future that is going to be completely different from the one we’re used to. Now is the time to use the power of creativity to blend the best in communications, experience, commerce and technology to build better futures for our clients and their consumers.

This has not been an easy time. Change is hard, especially when it is forced upon you. You can either let yourself get run over by it, or get back up and change for the better. For our industry, it’s up to nobody but us.

Digital Marketing as a career

Digital Marketing as a career web

A study by Hootsuite has shown that we spend an average of 6 hours a day online, to put that in perspective it’s a quarter of our lives. Whether we are scanning social media channels on our phone, ordering groceries through an online app via a tablet or planning a holiday on a laptop, PC or smart TV, access to the internet has become an integrated necessity of our lives.

With so much time being spent online and the decline of other traditional forms of marketing, branding and advertising in the digital space has become a necessity if companies want to compete. This has brought about the rise of a new marketing specialist, the digital marketer and several new opportunities for organisations to expand their businesses into the cyber marketplace.

As a result, digital marketing skills are in serious demand and the digital skills gap is set to widen as brands start putting more of a focus on, and allocating a bigger portion of their marketing budgets to digital marketing than ever before. By 2020, 2 million new digital jobs are expected in the U.K. alone and not enough digital professionals to fill them. This provides those choosing a digital marketing with a unique competitive advantage as this is an industry where soon demand will exceed supply. We are already starting to see this trend emerge. According to Marketing Hiring Trends demand for digital marketing professionals outstrips supply with 44% of companies wanting to hire more digital marketers.

 What is a digital marketer?

The ever-growing trend of digitising businesses creates the need for individuals well-versed in the business and art of digital marketing.

A digital marketer is responsible for developing, implementing and managing marketing strategies and campaigns that promote a company and its products and/or services on digital platforms. This individual plays a major role in enhancing brand awareness within the digital space as well as driving website traffic and acquiring leads or customers through online channels.

Digital marketers possess the knowledge and have mastered the skills necessary to harness the power of the internet for the purpose of developing and implementing effective customer journey communication strategies that make use of email campaigns, blogs, web pages, social media content and more.

All of these activities are aimed at engaging with today’s internet-savvy consumers and interacting with them when they are online by presenting them with meaningful content that will stimulate the correct response for the brand concerned. There is a rising demand for knowledgeable and skilled digital marketing professionals in the industry.

Desirable skills

 In order to have a successful career in digital marketing, it is important to master the following skills:

  • Inbound Marketing – possess the ability to utilize inbound marketing to generate new leads.
  • Flexibility – The ability to change what is not working in order to move you towards your project goals.
  • Strong Organisational Skills – The ability to manage various different campaign aspects at the same time.
  • Sales Experience – Essential to have hands-on sales knowledge and expertise. Digital marketing requires being able to understand and anticipate changes in sales trends.
  • Branding Experience- It is important to possess the ability to create an effective branding strategy.
  • Landing Page Strategy – The ability to craft great landing pages for websites
  • Knowledge of Content Writing Platforms – such as WordPress is beneficial.
  • Strong Social Media Skills – Must be able to create effective, potentially ‘viral,’ social media content aimed at increasing brand or product awareness.
  • Ability to conduct analytics reports in order to measure your success.
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Having a broad understanding of how SEO works is critical to increasing where your website will rank. The higher your website ranks, the more likely people will click on that website in the search engine results.
  • HTML Knowledge is preferable – Being capable of using HTML to create eye-catching sub-headers and other visually appealing content is a huge plus.
  • A strong ability to utilise Advertising Platforms, such as Google AdWords, to create effective ads.
  • Good online listening skills – Understand the importance of listening to customers for the purpose of creating trusting relationships and loyalty.
  • Goal-Oriented – Set both short-term and long-term goals, and diligently work towards fulfilling those goals.

Possible digital marketing career options

 There is a wide variety of digital marketing jobs out there with a wide variety of specialisation options. Here are a few examples:

  • Video/audio production
  • Interactive technology (such as AI)
  • Mobile marketing
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • E-commerce
  • Email/Direct Marketing
  • Marketing Automation
  • Content Management and Curation
  • Web Development
  • Web Design
  • Copywriting, Editing and Blogging
  • Analytics
  • Business/Marketing strategy
  • Paid advertising
  • Online Public Relations.

 Benefits to a digital marketing career

 There is huge competition for skilled talent regardless of the industry. This means that individuals with the right skills can negotiate for great salaries but also land great benefits and perhaps even bonuses depending on their role. In more traditional careers like advertising you’d have to wait for an internship or graduate placement to open up in order to gain experience. The digital marketing world, however, provides a host of opportunities for you to kickstart your own career before you even set foot in a workplace. Digital marketing is such a dynamic sector with a range of disciplines, which means you’re likely to meet and work with individuals from different backgrounds and different interests. Due to high demand for digital marketing skills and the fact you can apply this knowledge to any sector or role makes this an agile career.

But one of the greatest benefits of being a digital marketer is the flexibility it offers you to work on your time. You can work for a company on a full-time basis or you can work as a freelancer for various organisations. Because digital marketing is done primarily online you can work from anywhere the is an internet connection. Our own research has also shown that marketing agencies are less concerned with formal qualifications and more interested in whether the applicant has the right skills and aptitude. This makes entering the industry much quicker for school leavers or those wanting to pivot their skills from another industry altogether.

Digital marketing is not a trend, but how marketing will be done going forward. Marketers that do not upskill will be left behind.

After assessing feedback received from the industry it became apparent to us that we had to develop the best and most relevant 10-month certificate course in digital marketing, and we did.

Our newly launched Applied Digital Marketing course is an online blended learning course with interactive content, webinars, gamification and one-on-one coaching with industry experts. The intention of this course is to provide students with knowledge and then get them to apply the knowledge in order to develop specific skills that are aligned to industry requirements. All of this culminates into a hands-on, skills-based portfolio whereby students can showcase their ‘experience’ to the industry, hence improving their chances of employment.

Included are eight learning blocks and one overarching portfolio project where students will

  • build and manage social media business pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube
  • design and create content for social media using online tools
  • apply basic writing skills for online copy and blogging
  • apply online research techniques including keyword research, blog topic research, social monitoring and clickstream analysis
  • develop a good understanding of how to plan and implement SEO strategies and create content for search ranking purposes
  • gain skills in building reports and interpreting data from google analytics and other social media insights tools
  • build a basic website using Wix
  • utilise online tools in the Google Suite such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Docs
  • use Mailchimp to create email campaigns
  • leverage tools like Grammarly to typo proof copy
  • use tools such as Hootsuite as a social media management tool

To learn more visit our website https://www.imm.ac.za/onlineshortcourses/online-course/applied-digital-marketing-certificate/