The world of communications has changed dramatically since SIT2LRN launched its Bachelor of Professional Communication, and related certificates and diplomas.
The course was first offered in 2014 because of industry demand for communication graduates with a myriad of skills. At the time, the practice of communications was primarily led by former journalists often employed by the very organisations they had written about. It wasn’t unusual for the council reporter from the local newspaper to become the local council’s communications manager.
Dramatic changes to the media landscape have placed more focus on the role of communication practitioners, as organisations seek to fill news voids by creating and supplying their own information and content – in both traditional written and also new media material. The role of social media has also led to significant change in how organisations communicate to those interested in their products or services.
Bachelor of Professional Communication Programme Manager Chris Montgomery said the communications sector had also transformed away from a traditional “PR- type” perspective into a wide-ranging and dynamic one that continued to grow.
“We recognised the need for effective communicators, researchers, writers and leaders to have access to a broad qualification that reflected the industry at the time. It also coincided with declining demand for journalism training, so it made sense for us to provide that training.”
The course had been well received, with graduates gaining employment in areas including education, tourism, local government and journalism.
“But as part of our regular monitoring, it became clear the comms industry had evolved and matured and the demands for employees had changed. Our consultation with the industry revealed there was demand for a course that offered the most contemporary communication learnings that meet the needs of industry on graduation.
“That’s why we’ve revised and updated the entire course and realigned many of the course aspects to ensure they reflect that change and keep ahead of the curve.
“It’s a natural evolution rather than a dramatic revolution, and one I’m really excited about because we’ve again listened to industry leaders and worked with them to create a training journey that will produce graduates ready to move into the communications world.”
While previously, experienced journalists looking for a career change or those already working in the industry wanting to qualify their skills had predominately been those enrolling in the course, Chris expects the changes will lead to an increase in enrolments from younger students coming into the industry looking to make their mark.
“It’s an incredibly exciting and dynamic industry with so many facets and areas to specialise in, and it’s a real growth market from an employment perspective. We’re seeing a younger demographic looking at communications as a real career option and this will only accelerate with the changes we’ve made.”
One of the biggest changes has been the focus and scope of papers offered. While originally the focus was on public relations (or PR) and local government, which is where the demand was, so many organisations now had a comms team and the goal was to ensure the course produced graduates ready to step into those types of roles, Chris said.
“While there’s still demand from the likes of local government and other traditional organisations that have a need to communicate their stories, there’s increasing demand from the creative industries for comms experts who can tell a story through great content creation.
“The comms industry is no longer just about sending out a press release and hoping someone at a media outlet reads it and uses it. Now the content options are quite diverse, which is why we’ve included video and 2D animation creation in the revised course.
“Employers are wanting graduates who are comfortable creating multimedia content for distribution across various platforms and, of course, SIT2LRN is in a great position to be able to offer that from existing course material.”
While all the papers have been reviewed and revised, and some replaced with more relevant subject material, a big change was made to the elective options.
“We’re still teaching the principles of communication and how students can apply ethical, legal and business principles as well as incorporating appropriate cultural practices in various media communication contexts. That focus hasn’t changed,” he said.
The PR graduate qualification has changed to ‘Corporate Sector’ to represent the wider role of traditional PR in the strategic communication operations within that sector, while the Local Government graduate qualification changes to a ‘Public’ Sector’ strand to meet the needs of communications departments in all public sector organisations (including councils and district health boards).
“These will also appeal to those already in the industry looking to hone their skills and obtain an appropriate industry qualification while continuing to work in their roles.”
A research project component has also been added to enable students to engage in research of a contemporary communication issue.
“That’s partly for the research skills, but also to allow students to get their teeth into a comms issue that's happening in real time. Research does form a bit of comms but it gives them an opportunity to really understand current issues in organisations rather than relying on theory and allows them to balance that theory against reality.
“It will be really interesting to see where those projects take students, because it really is a diverse and fascinating sector,” Chris said.
The changes will be introduced for intake one in 2021, but the impact on students would be minimal, Chris said.
“With the degree they shouldn't notice any difference because only the new papers will be available for selection.”
With the graduate certificates and diplomas, students should consult the transition tables available on the website programme page. And if they have any questions they should contact the programme administrator, he said.
“I’m really excited by the new papers and am looking forward to seeing where our graduates end up. It’s a dynamic sector and one that’s only going to grow exponentially in the coming years.”
Learn more about our Professional Communication courses