Back Stage to a Course MCOM 313 Social Media Theory & Practice

The course invites students to discover and analyze best practices in social media marketing, story telling and community building, as well as to apply theory to critical investigations of the cultural roles and impacts of current digital media with the goal of helping students become both effective communicators and highly-ethical and faithful global citizens who can positively impact their profession and their society.

This story is a back-stage invitation to the making of this course.

Course Theory

Lecture is push technology...a transmission. What would happen if we centered learning on building relationships and not just on covering content?

Multi Access

credit: Valerie Irvine – University of Victoria

Multi-access learning proposes that learners can personalize their modality preferences, which may include face-to-face on campus, synchronous online, asynchronous online, and extends even to open access. Our learning community already exists, so the focus is on helping our community do what it needs to do, which is to learn together, albeit in diverse ways.

Intentional Teaching Framework

  • Know = What do you your learners already know, what do they need to know and what do you know about them.
  • See = What to do learners need to see, read, hear in regards to the content knowledge.
  • Do = Apply knowledge during in-class activities. Set goals, plan, and implement strategies.
  • Reflect = Observe your practice, assess feedback, analyze, and plan for change.

credit: Gail Joseph and Susan Sandall – Cultivate Learning

Social Presencing

We begin the class on a snowy day in January with a social presencing activity. Otta Scharmer posits, "presencing happens when our perception begins to happen from the source of our emerging future."

Learners are asked to state their names and what they hope to learn from this class. They then "toss" to another student who has to repeat what they just heard before stating their own name and hopes.

The activity is meant to build active listening capabilities through listening to understand while listening to respond.

Course Goals, Expectations and Norms

Class Inspired Norms

Think about the best class you’ve ever been part of. What were the things that made it great? Write them down. What attributes from those groups do you want as part of this class? Some ideas might be accountability, meeting regularly, speaking honestly to each other, following through on actions, etc.

Students named these as the class norms:

  • Be Bold
  • Be Respectfull
  • Be Creative
  • Plan to Have Fun

credit to Kevin Schut – Professor and Associate Dean of SAMC

As a way to develop deep understanding and ownership of the course learning goals, students were asked to fill in a Venn Diagram.

Student Examples

Social Stories

Moving from Transmission to Transaction to Transformation

Big thanks to Margery B. Ginsberg for the "Wow & Wonder" method.

After each class using Moodle discussion forums, students were asked to list "Wow's" and "Wonders":

"WOW, Zoom is an excellent communication tool that more professors need to utilize on snow days! I learned a lot through last Friday's lesson and the break-out rooms were a great way to encourage us to have a group discussion even though every one of us was in a different location."

"I WONDER if we could have watched the videos on our own rather than through Zoom. I found them difficult to watch because of the low picture/sound quality and was a little confused how they related back to the content being covered."

"My WOW...Scott often talked about the transmission to the transaction to the transformation of content, which he tied to the idea of there being various “gaps” in our society’s history. The Gutenberg printing press was a tool that filled the knowledge gap, the invention of the locomotive filled the power gap, then the internet filled the gaps of information and distance. Today we are dealing with a trust gap, as well as a connection gap. Immersive media could potentially be a transformative medium to fill the latter."


Dr Jerry Camery-Hoggatt and Rev Dr Kenny Macklin

"Wow: I was so captivated by the storytelling from this class! It really inspired me. The lecture on storytelling gave me a whole new perspective on the way we tell stories. I really loved this class. I left feeling like I needed to tell people about the things that I had learned because it was so fascinating!"

"Wonder: I wonder how I can implement storytelling into the ways in which I use social media platforms. I wonder what stories need to be told and how I can better listen to other people's stories."

Another goal of the course is to extend the reach beyond the class room. To that end, guests were interviewed for a podcast.

Eddie Rehfeldt – Executive Creative Director

"WOW: I was blown away by the work that Eddie had done. I am quite appreciative of you bringing in someone this high profile. It was inspiring to see how much he cared about the audiences in marketing and how care was such a key aspect behind his marketing, especially with the Samsung Phone fire debacle. He looked at business marketing not just as a way of creating profit but as really a way of wanting what is best for the audience."

"WONDER: Would I want to be involved as a creative director? How should I use this transparent marketing for NGOs when issues arise? Is it always a good idea to be that transparent or are there times when transparency is not the best approach? My personality would lean to always being transparent but I could see issues arising."

Sandy Cioffi – Founder and Executive Director of fearless360º

"WOW, I was absolutely enthralled by everything that Sandy Cioffi shared with us in class. The idea of empathy-building through embodied narratives—a fresh and novel way of storytelling—piqued my interest. I felt inspired by hearing about the various projects that people have done using virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and 360° immersion, especially since I used to think about whether it was possible to achieve experiences like living life in the eyes of another."

"I WONDER if this technology, being utilized in such a way to explore and share the universal human condition, will gain more traction and interest in the eyes of the general public, as most people now may only be aware of its application to video games. I WONDER how people with good intentions, values, and characters can continue to expand on this storytelling method to bring the same ideas into all spheres of life and help others."

Chris Corrigan – Process artist, a teacher and a facilitator of social technologies in the service of emergence.

"Wow: Chris’s opening illustration of a circle and the importance it plays in our lives today was very impactful for me. He said, This is our survival mode. When we don’t know what to do, get into a circle. It immediately triggers our instincts as human beings of telling the deeper stories. The soul of a community gets invoked when we are sitting in circles. And it changes the way we are from transactional to transformational.”

"Wonder: I wonder how I can use the effectiveness of a circle to not only create deeper connection, but to listen and learn valuable stories in the future. I plan to use this technique in future story telling whether it be for social media or intentionally connecting with a community."

Creative Journey Web Stories

The first assignment is to create a web-based creative journey story reifying your emerging agency as you acknowledge your previous steps.

  • One word that describes you
  • Multiple words that describe you
  • 2-3 sentences that describe you
  • Pictures, images and videos that you want to share

Prompts – Past

  • When you were a child, who was the warmest person in your life?
  • When did God become more than a word in your life?
  • Who influenced or assisted you in your creative pursuit?

Prompts – Present

  • How have your interests shaped your world & your relationship?
  • How do your creative pursuits connect to your philosophy?
  • Share a time that has challenged you creatively.

Prompt – Future

  • Where do you see yourself in five years (geographically and vocationally)?
  • If you could have a wish come true what would it be?

Visual Story Telling

During the RGK Building ground-breaking ceremony at Trinity Western University, students were assigned to create memes.

meme / mēm / noun – an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means.

As we transitioned to realities and impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, students selected photos and were assigned to develop and add captions.

Social Media Campaigns

Social Media Campaign Assignment

You will arrange to plan and execute a social media campaign for an organization, event or theme. You will identify a client and discuss the possibility of running a social media campaign for them this spring. It is possible that you will develop a web-based story with an engagement strategy or run a single, limited-duration campaign for an event that a group is running.

Final Exam

Leading up to the Final Exam we utilized Zoom Breakout rooms and Google Docs in a generative way to engage in prompted group discussions. The discussions were then harvested by the students as they prepared for the Final Exam.

Sample Exam Questions

Student Learning Take-Aways...

As a content creator and artist, the aesthetic character of my work influences the process most heavily. It is how I attract people to regard a given message. That being said, I have learned that the creative process can be highly collaborative with the audience. They can create with you as the final product develops. That is very intriguing to me. In doing so, a collective voice is harnessed, and the community is fostered. Through this, we can build “ways of knowing through which maker and receiver come to insight and understanding [through] collaborative and community–based interdisciplinary practices,” (syllabus). This builds “personal and social health”. A collectivistic digital community is much more meaningful and transformational for all of its members than an individualistic community ever could attain.

Transformation. That is the key takeaway of MCOM 313 for me. A simple word but with much depth as I have learned over the semester. A foundational groundwork for this key term for me is that of empathy-building: deeply understanding and feeling and knowing the needs of your audience. It is not enough to just sell a product but you need to be able to fully empathize with your audience. That begins to build the difference between transmission, transaction, and transformation.

Having Ken Macklin and Jerry Camery-Hoggatt speak to us about the art of storytelling was a huge highlight for me. I learned that a story is not and cannot be identical to the event, but rather, a story is always the way of interpreting an event. Language is such a powerful tool. Language is selective, linear, ambiguous, polyvalent, and even has aural texture. Therefore, it important to use language carefully. As storytellers we decide what words we will use to package the story and how we will deliver that package. This plays a large role in determining the impact the story will have. We additionally tell stories in the context of our own metanarrative. This of course raises the challenge that “social media does not presuppose a common metanarrative” The person behind the story is maybe just as important as the story itself. All of this made me engage with stories on social media in a more critical way.

In Eddie Rehfeldt’s guest lecture, I found that he changed my view on campaigns and how to communicate ideas that may be different than what a company typically would pursue. He encouraged introverts to step out of their own comfort zone and enter into the conversation regardless of whether or not they want to because we each bring our own passions and interests to the job. His advice to look for the conversations that aren’t happening was insightful and it has led to me considering how we can better incorporate a consumer’s needs and wants into a campaign, which invites people to engage with an actual person and not a company.

While creating my own social media campaign, Scott taught us the essential and valuable tool of engagement strategies. This is probably one of the biggest take-a-ways for me from our class this year. Prior to MCOM 313, I was familiar with today’s current social media platforms but never understood how something like SEO’s and measuring success metrics through tools such as Google Analytics could be so effective. Learning how to use Hootsuite to plan my own Instagram posts and deepen my social marketing knowledge has been so valuable. This caused me to dive deeper into tools provided through Instagram such as “insights” that allows me to track and measure metrics such as reach, impressions, interactions and audience activity.

Telling our stories is an activity of constantly selecting what to say and what not to say, because we cannot say everything. Doing this makes the “transaction” easier, ultimately paving the way for creating memorable transformative experiences. I also saw power in storytelling—that it is not enough to just have a story to tell, but it matters how we frame those very stories in order to maximize transformational impact, and that we also share those stories in a convenient format. With my creative web story journey, I was challenged to be intentional about which parts of my metanarrative to pull out as fragments and weave into a coherent mosaic of experiences and aspirations, but also framing it as a snapshot of who I have become today.

Both Sandy Cioffi and Kenny Macklin introduced the idea of world-building and I learned the importance of symbols. Macklin notes that a symbol is something that extends beyond itself to go beyond reality, choosing to point towards a reality. In connection to our discussion on virtual reality with Sandy Cioffi, I found that I could better understand how it relates to a recreated world and can connect to other forms of communication. I was heavily influenced by her discussion on Nonny de la Pena’s “Project Syria” as it brings the viewer into the story as a participant, changing how journalism transforms our approach to the news.

Initially my goal for this class was to learn the practical skills of managing a professional social media account. I got so much more than that and came out of this class understanding the importance of empathetic connection through social media. Through lectures we learned about designing a communication plan, analyzing communication and technology, we explored the history of social media, constructed critical approaches to the cultural impact of social media, developed understanding of ethical guidelines, and explored the role of faith in media culture (Macklin 2020).

When asked this question at the beginning of the course, I said that I wanted to learn more about how social media can be used for transformational impact in the world. This was my answer at the time, but, to be honest, I did not truly know what “transformational impact” looked like. From this course, my biggest takeaway is learning practical ways in which this can be realized.

Namely, the professor and multiple guest speakers continually underscored social media’s potential for stories to move from transmission to transaction and, ultimately, transformation.

This semester also taught me about why social media is important. From a glance, social media offers the opportunity to increase brand recognition, improve brand loyalty, create opportunity to convert, raise conversion rates, and also raise brand authority. All of these aspects are so important for brands and businesses, yet in light of the recent COVID situation, we have all experienced the connecting power of social media for individuals.

Our class with Chris Corrigan in Week 8 helped enforce this idea of connection. For any social media campaign to be successful, it must first invite people to participate. This emphasis on invitation is what builds a relationship between a business and their consumers. An effective invitation always includes an attractor (brings people in) and a purpose (causes them to stay). From here the web of relationships can grow as people invite others to participate as well.

On a more personal note, my biggest take-away was the idea of “participation over perfection” which was introduced by Scott Macklin in Week 1. As someone who has always held back for fear of coming across as “imperfect” (i.e. ignorant, cliché), I’ve realized that no one expects perfection from me – we are all here to learn together! What matters is my participation, and it is through participation that I can become more knowledgeable and confident in myself and my ideas.

Course Development Resources

Created By
Scott Macklin


Photos by Scott Macklin