Colorado University Rolls Out Doctorates in Social Media

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   Colorado Tech's beautiful virtual campus

Pixels and Policy was one of the first to touch on St. Paul College's plan to make virtual world studies into a degree program.

We predicted that colleges would begin adopting virtual worlds programs over the next few years. Turns out things are moving faster than we thought.

Now Colorado is in on the fun, becoming one of the first universities in America to offer a PhD in social media and virtual worlds. Pixels and Policy investigates just what it takes to become a Doctor of Facebook.

A Doctorate in Second Life? Really?

Colorado Tech made its formal announcement through Reuters this morning:

[CTU] launched six graduate degree programs designed tohelp prepare professionals to use technology and social media to meet changing business demands.

The new programs include two doctor of management degrees – one in emerging media and another in environmental and social sustainability; two doctor of computer science degrees – one in digital systems security and another in emerging media.

A month ago, Pixels and Policy made the argument that previously unknown universities could compete with and ultimately build their own Ivy League by turning to degree programs in virtual worlds. By providing the tools for ambitious students to get ahead in a rapidly advancing industry, the best minds will be drawn to schools like South Dakota State University, with its interesting virtual degree program.

It now seems universities are heading in exactly this direction. Each week brings news on more universities either turning to virtual worlds for classroom enhancement or going all-out and providing full undergraduate programs in the Metaverse. Over 250 colleges are now offering a certificate or degree in virtual worlds, a huge boom over just a few years ago.

What a Doctorate in 'Social Technology' Means

Students accepted into the Colorado Tech program will look at social media – everything from Facebook and Twitter to worlds like Second Life and FarmVille – from a business perspective.

What makes these networks succeed while others fail? Why do people spend money on virtual goods? What makes Second Life a dominant player in the virtual world business?

These questions have applications well beyond the development of future virtual worlds. Television stations are now seeking ways to merge interactivity with cable programming to create an active audience. Viral marketing has gone from a fringe industry to a legitimate source of buzz for movies, video games, shoes and sports drinks. 

Students with a hands-on knowledge of how to build and market social networks, virtual worlds, and other technology can easily transfer that knowledge to other private-sector jobs. Who knows – the next great political campaign manager may be a graduate of CTU's Social Media program.