Class: Marketing Fundamentals
Cost: $825 plus $60 application fee
Duration: eight weeks
Breaking ranks with my fellow writers, I decided to take a longer, eight-week class called Marketing Fundamentals. A theory course, it not only defines the different marketing types but also explains how marketing works within society and your business. The class is offered through National University, a San Diego-based, private, nonprofit, accredited university, and is facilitated by eCollege, which provides virtual-education technology to institutions.
Registration is somewhat involved and should be completed at least one month prior to your start. Enrollees are billed two weeks before the first day, and tuition must be paid before your first "meeting," or you'll pay a late fee.
Once enrolled, you need to purchase the textbook for the class. Just check the syllabus, then e-mail or call the school to order. It will be shipped to you.
Unlike other virtual classes that allow you to go at your own pace, Marketing Fundamentals is structured with set start and end dates, and it's no cakewalk: A syllabus, homework, a final exam and grades are all administered by an instructor. To successfully complete a longer course like this one, don't try to do the work during business hours. Carve out at least one hour each day of uninterrupted time to devote to it.
While you're more than welcome to read ahead in the textbook and online, the assignments for this class are only available sequentially at regular intervals. The course content is a combination of online reading and discussion, and offline textbook work and research.
What I liked best about the course were the threaded discussions: The instructor posted assignments, and students responded to them and to each other. Students sometimes even worked in virtual teams to complete assignments.
Each week, a different topic was covered, ranging from marketing's role in the global economy and various market segmentation opportunities to new-product development. Even pricing--a perennial head-scratcher for many--was discussed. That section explained things like product/service value that go into determining what to charge. While the online discussion didn't provide how-to instructions, it did give a framework to help you set pricing structures.
Obviously, this is no get-it-and-run course. It takes time, commitment and concentration to complete and is best suited to those who care about the why of marketing as well as the how-to.
-Cynthia E. Griffin
A look at the biggest names in virtual business courses
By Amanda C. Kooser
- Blackboard: Blackboard.com contains thousands of courses in categories ranging from "Higher Education" to "Corporate Training." Instructors use Blackboard to put their own courses online.
- CyberCampus: CyberCampus is provided through Golden Gate University (www.ggu.edu) and offers degrees and professional certificates. Online interaction with instructors and other students gives CyberCampus some of the aspects of a more traditional university environment.
- Headlight: Headlight specializes in business and technology courses and allows an employer to create a team profile and monitor employees' course progress. Some courses are free.
- Learn.com: Learn.com features a broad range of course topics, including Arabic, journalism and the Internet. Like Headlight, some courses are offered free of charge.
- SmartPlanet: SmartPlanet offers over 700 courses covering a variety of subjects. Some are taken on demand, while others are scheduled, instructor-led classes. Learning Advisers can help you select courses.