Thursday, September 20, 2012

The competition for class enrollments

The [Harvard] Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations did more this semester to attract students than just host office hours, distribute appealing syllabi, or even tack up posters. It paid for Facebook ads.

The department advertised introductory language courses in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese as well as three other undergraduate courses, according to Gustavo Espada, the financial and IT coordinator of the department.

One ad that appeared on the side of Harvard students’ Facebook news feeds read: “Is Vietnamese Too Hard? Unlike many other Asian languages, it uses Western characters! Study it at Harvard.”

When students clicked on the ad, it directed them to the iSite page for the introductory class Vietnamese Ba.

Binh Ngo, who teaches the course, which meets five days a week at 9 a.m., said that the class jumped from 8 students last year to 11 this year. He did not ask his students whether they learned about the course from Facebook, but he guessed that the ads had been effective.
--Omnia Chen, Harvard Crimson, on the possible beginning of an on-campus advertising arms race