Master’s Programme Content Strategy – Review of the Curriculum of the First Semester

Reading time: 6 minutes

When you are interested in studying Content Strategy, inform yourself about the facts of the curriculum on the website of the FH Joanneum or click on the headlines below. This blog post provides you with a brief personal account.

Open Space and Portfolio 1: The Web as a Publishing Platform

This course includes the online socialisation phase before the first classes take place. We were supposed to introduce ourselves, interact and thus get to know each other on Slack. For me, it was very difficult to follow the thread of about a thousand messages per day (at least it felt like a thousand messages) and to remember who is who. We had our first face-to-face contact only during the first presence week in Graz and after that, it became much easier. Even if you have a face to a name from a photograph, it makes a huge difference to meet people in person.

Additionally, the creation of the students’ individual blogs was a topic of this course. We were supposed to document the acquired competencies and to reflect on courses and about how the studies influence our lives. I have to admit that sometimes it is hard for me to keep the blog posts in mind because there are so many other things to be done. However, I really like to read the blog posts of my colleagues because of the diverse viewpoints and reading styles.

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Kickoff Workshop: What is Content Strategy?

The kickoff workshop introduces the components, methods, instruments and processes of content strategy and provides a general overview.

In the beginning, the load of information seemed a bit overwhelming to me because I was a newbie in content strategy! It was difficult to make connections between the different parts of it and I felt as if I had been thrown in at the deep end.

However, the practical project clarified a lot. It was about the improvement of the website of a fitness trainer and slowly but constantly it started to make sense how the different aspects of content strategy work together.

It may be better to move this workshop to the second semester after the disciplines that take on leading roles in content strategy have been introduced. That would fuel the rocket before it is launched.

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Video and Multimedia on the Web

As video and multimedia are considered important content on the web, this course introduces “technical and content-related quality criteria, formats, platforms for sharing content and collaborating, publishing for and on such platforms, storytelling with multimedia content, and relevant best practices”.

We had to perform tasks such as to describe ourselves with five keywords, to create a storyboard, to plan a video production or to create videos ourselves. Generally, the input was good and it makes sense that as a content strategist you have some basic theoretical knowledge about video requirements. However, I think it is expert subject matter when it comes to the practical part.

I am still wondering why I struggled with the tasks of this course as much as I did. Maybe feedback would have made it easier to understand but unfortunately, I never received any.

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Writing, Editing and Curating Content

Content has to fulfil special requirements if you write online texts. In this course, we learned about the criteria of high-quality digital texts and how texts that are delivered on various platforms and through a variety of channels, how they are edited and published. Best practices of how to curate web content and user-generated content were discussed as well. The general mechanisms of search engines and the relevance of SEO in that respect were also main topics.

My main takeaway from this course is that writing for the web is not the same as writing for other mediums and that particularly “easy writing” is hard for me (and I will probably never be able to do it properly, haha). I am still not sure if the use of keywords limits creativity. And I have not decided yet what to think about Google’s influence on SEO rankings. It has its advantages for sure but to me, it also has the unpleasant taste of slavery.

However, I am well aware of the importance of SEO for content strategy and would have liked to learn more about it. Maybe it would be beneficial to have a separate course on SEO.

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Back-end Development for the Web

The topics covered in this course are described in the curriculum as follows: “Techniques of delivering static and dynamic web content; separation of data, logic, and presentation; persistence/storage/databases; possibilities of developing back-end logic; practical back-end development; types of content management systems/CMS and their comparison; selection criteria in technical and economic terms; exemplary use of various CMS in the form a seminar paper; semantic web techniques.”

Basically, we learned that a website needs a proper back-end to work well in the front-end. Thus, we also had to try to acquire the programming language Python to get a glimpse of what is going on in the background of a page. In my earlier blog post Does Python Bite? I report on my experience with learning Python. As I have already emphasised in this post, I think that a more thorough introduction should be provided as the prior knowledge of the students may not be very extensive.

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Basics of Web Techniques

This course was about web standards and technical aspects such as HTML, XML and CSS. We learned how to judge the technical sustainability of a website. Additionally, we were introduced to markdown and the lecture was also about how to create ePubs as the master’s thesis should be published as an ePub.

My personal conclusion is that there were too many complex topics but too little time to explain them properly. My colleagues with a more extensive technical knowledge were probably bored but I was left with a lot of question marks in my head.

I definitely understood the basics of Markdown but I am still struggling with images and with the bibliography. However, I have to figure out how these things work until I start writing my master’s thesis.

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Content Strategy Project

The content strategy project refers to the project paper (~ 30 pages) you have to write.  You use the methods you were introduced to in the “Introduction to Content Strategy” for a project (preferably within your company). The expected workload is 250 hours and that really hits you hard at a time when other coursework has to be completed as well, even if you are lucky enough to be able to do some of the work within your working hours.

For my first project paper, I performed a content inventory and audit of an internal knowledge base. It was great to use the newly acquired knowledge but it also drained a lot of my energy. However, it is really cool when at least some of your recommendations are then implemented because then you know that it was worth the effort.

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© Photos: Alexandra Wurian

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