Generation X and Baby Boomers can say what they will about the overeducated and underemployed Millennial set. Some may contend that a liberal arts degree has lost its luster, others take issue with our multi-tasking and hyper-social ways.
But schools across the country are teaching students how to turn their 21st-century skill set into a money-making asset in the job market. And with dozens of jobs coming out of the woodwork to accommodate new technologies and developments (social media/community manager, data miner, sustainability consultant, to name a few), college students are better prepared to tackle emerging challenges than their predecessors might think.
Check out these 10 college courses that definitely didn’t exist when Mom and Dad were hitting the books.
• Learning from YouTube
Known for its progressive philosophies, Pitzer College was an early implementer of digital spaces in the classroom. Part of the school’s Media Studies department, the Learning from YouTube course approaches the Web’s ultimate video database as a sociological case study. Students address how the technology reflects society and political possibility, and why we’re most interested in using it for mainstream media parodies and clips of cats.
• Digital Media for Business: The Mobile Experience
University of Southern California
Mobile applications are expected to generate $15.9 billion-worth of spending in 2012, so it’s no wonder that USC is encouraging business and media students to collaborate in this class that analyzes the intersection of multimedia and business on mobile platforms. Coursework culminates in a group project that asks students to conceptualize and develop a mobile app for a local business, non-profit or charity.
• GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender and Identity
University of Virginia
Even if you’re not a pop-culture fanatic, Lady Gaga is an influential phenom worth learning about. Initially famous for her provocative music and spectacle, Gaga has become a generational icon for individuality and self-love. The pop star’s clout in music, fashion and LGBT spaces makes her a perfect launch point for critical analysis of modern gender and identity issues as they exist in popular culture.
UVA isn’t the only school offering grades for Gaga, either; the University of South Carolina, Arizona State University and Wake Forest University do too.
• Ethics and the Law on the Electronic Frontier
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
This course navigates students through the gray areas of law, policy and technology as they pertain to evolving controversies over control of the Internet. Addressing issues of transparency and intellectual property, students weigh out the ethical issues of anonymous communities like Reddit and 4chan, as well as more institutional issues of profiling, data mining and the Patriot Act. Best of all, this course is available online by optional donation through MIT’s OpenCourseWare program. Pretty meta, if you ask us.
• The Science of Harry Potter
Frostburg State University
Offered as one of Frostburg’s remarkably creative honors seminars, The Science of Harry Potter took a look at the magical events in J.K. Rowling’s popular book series and explains them through the basic principles of physics. The course put a media-frenzied spell on the university and the professor who created the course.
• Virtual Communities and Social Media
This course equips students with tools for effectively using online forums, blogs, microblogs, wikis and other online communities. In addition to practical applications, students contemplate how social media developments affect concepts of social capital, collective action and the public sphere.
• New Media for Social Change
University of Southern California
Students from USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy and the Institute for Global Health cross-enroll in this class, which teaches how digital tools can be used to communicate and educate on global health issues.
Students collaborate on geo-spatial disease mapping projects and Web-based documentaries on legal issues surrounding HIV. In the process, classmates teach each other about their respective disciplines and walk away from the class with a fresh skill set.
• Survey of Video Game Theory and Design
University of Utah
The ever-growing game industry is rapidly entering the academic sphere at some of the country’s top-tier universities. This course, taught at the University of Utah, explores the historical, cultural and societal impacts of video games, and how the industry is continually transitioning from hobbyist and hacker subculture into the mainstream.
• #Eng290: Approaches to Literature and Culture
In this English class, Twitter isn’t a distraction; it’s a course requirement. Professor Paula Krebs requires students to write and answer prompts on Twitter as a way to engage with the course content and class discussions. A projector displays course text and the live Twitter stream of hashtag #Eng290, and each of the 20 students in the class is provided with a Kindle e-Reader, too.
One course assignment involves reading a children’s book three times — once each with a Kindle, a physical book and an audio book. Then they blogged about how the different mediums affected their consumption.
• Artificial Intelligence: Representation and Problem Solving
Carnegie Mellon University
The theory and practice of Artificial Intelligence sit at the core of this class, exploring the mathematical and scientific foundations as well as the big-picture implications of autonomous intelligent agents. The future is closer than we think, and students who take this course are learning necessary skills and concepts that will help them in the next chapter of integrated intelligence.
BONUS: While these 10 bizarre courses might not be outfitting students for the media and technology-saturated job market, we’d enroll in a second:
1. Zombies in Popular Media, Columbia College
2. Simpsons and Philosophy, University of California – Berkeley
3. Alien Sex, University of Rochester
4. Joy of Garbage, Santa Clara University
5. Maple Syrup: The Real Thing, Alfred University
6. Underwater Basketweaving, Reed College
7. Queer Musicology, University of California – Los Angeles
8. Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles, University of Wisconsin
9. Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ on TV Judge Show, University of California – Berkeley
10. Mail Order Brides: Understanding the Philippines in Southeast Asian Context, Johns Hopkins University
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