Dacota Liska

Doctoral Student


A Tour of the Professor PIKA Classroom


The PIKA Philosophy requires classroom assignments designed to encourage student engagement and long term learning. In my classroom, I focus the assignments on activities that encourage critical thinking and application of the materials learned in class. In this tour of the Professor PIKA classroom, I will show four items that reflect my teaching philosophy and express it in action: Syllabus, Case Studies, Blog Posts, Escape Room.

  1. Syllabus
  2. Case Study Examples
  3. Blog Posts
  4. Escape Room


My syllabus expresses the PIKA Philosophy by showing a semester that is full of activity and requires student engagement. The basis for a student’s final grade places emphasis on engaging activities such as case studies (20%), class participation (20%), online discussion blogs (15%), and a group project (20%). Furthermore, an individual digital marketing project and presentation (15%) allows each student to present their evaluation of a company/organization to the entire class. This individual project encourages each student to actively engage with their entire class and gives me, the teacher, a strong indication of each students’ understanding of the material. This ensures that students understand the topics taught during the first half of the class and allows me to adapt future lectures to cover any topics that need extra emphasis. Furthermore, it prepares them better for their group project as they will be doing the same type of assignment but with the added complexity of providing recommendations for improvement and writing a professional letter to a fictitious Chief Marketing Officer. The final piece of my students’ grade focuses specifically on improving their ability to understand and analyze data (Tableau Assignment: 5%) and encouraging continuing education, and providing opportunities to add to one’s resume by completing a Google Academy Hubspot Certification (5%). Digital Marketing is an ever-growing field, and it’s important that students know how to continue their education outside of the classroom.

From a scheduling perspective, I ensure that assignments will keep students engaged and active, but not overwhelmed. Each week is devoted to a specific topic that builds upon itself as we advance throughout the semester and is followed a week later by both a case study and a blog to encourage further learning and test the students’ knowledge. Twice during the semester, I devote class time to discussing the case studies and presenting awards for the blogs, as well as turning the class into a workshop for students to bring their projects to the classroom to receive feedback from their peers and myself. Finally, near the end of the semester, I devote an entire day to the escape room to bring everything together in a fun, exciting environment.

Case Study Examples:

Much of the material covered in class is highlighted by real-life examples that I bring into the classroom. These examples help students understand how the material is used in a real business setting. To test both students’ understanding of the topic material and improve their critical thinking skills for the real world, I focus the class assignments on completing case studies. These case studies are designed, by me, specifically for this class. They pull from my digital marketing experience, my experience consulting, and an array of conversations I have had with industry experts. For example, one case study focuses on testing students’ understanding of digital analytics and is co-authored by my industry connection, Brandon Banning, the Director of Marketing and Ecommerce at Marine Accessories Corporation. We worked together to create this case study to test digital analytics skills that are important to managers when hiring students.

The first few case studies are designed to test students’ knowledge of the topics covered at the beginning of the semester and familiarize them with the inner workings of completing a case study.  These case studies help me overcome a common limitation of more traditional methods such as multiple choice and fill in the blank questions. That is, traditional methods do not allow teachers to understand the extent to which students understand the material, only whether they can accurately repeat the knowledge. To maintain the PIKA Philosophy, I must grasp the depth to which students understand the material so that I can adapt the class to ensure students are learning to their maximum potential. As such, half of the points allocated for the case studies come from the students’ explanation for why they chose a particular direction.

Finally, the final case study is designed to bring together all of the topics covered in class as well as give students the opportunity to create real-world digital marketing assets. In addition, students are given two datasheets to supplement their analytical decision making. There are no official correct answers for these questions to reflect the ambiguity found in the real world. Instead, students are graded based on the ability to showcase their skill to solve digital marketing problems and test their understanding of class topics.

Blog Posts:

Digital Marketing Blog Posts (Live Link)

Students are required to complete six different blog posts throughout the semester. Creating blog posts allows students to gain experience using the back end of a popular content management system (WordPress) that they can talk about when applying for jobs. Students are asked to create these posts based on something that they found interesting during our discussion of the assigned topic. This activity facilitates learning by encouraging students to research and create educational blog posts about relevant class topics. Furthermore, students are also asked to comment on each other’s blogs to encourage peer-sharing and add an additional layer of learning.

While some of the blogs are well done, others are less aesthetically pleasing. I have found that different students have different experiences using content management systems. However, I find the differences in blog quality to be an asset for teaching. For example, I host a Blog Awards session to showcase what an exemplary blog looks like and to encourage students to become creative. Many of the awards are basic such as “Best Overall Blog” and “Best Design,” however, I also include many unique categories that the students love, such as: Geoffrey Chaucer Award (for the best prose), Gimili Award (for the best short but effective blog), Google Award (for the blog most likely to be an advertisement by Google), and many others. One of my favorite blogs was written after we conducted a “rap battle” in class to argue whether Pay Per Click (PPC) or Cost Per Mille (CPM) was a more effective payment method used in search engine marketing. The student created a ‘rap’ set to music as his blog post:

You can see that blog here: https://digitalmarketing.aritree.com/2020/02/19/semrapbattle/

For the final blog, I ask students to reflect on the class and write a blog about any topic they desire. This is one of my favorite assignments to grade as the entire semester has been focused on helping the students to grasp the concept of digital marketing, and this is their opportunity to truly express themselves and talk about any topic on their mind. Ironically enough, one of the students in my Fall 2019 class chose to write their blog about Professor PIKA.

I’d like to share that post here: https://digitalmarketing.aritree.com/2019/12/04/wild-encounter/ 

Escape Room: 

The escape room “Google’s Algorithm” is one of my favorite classes. I created a Professor PIKA costume and came to class as “Professor PIKA” to help the students figure out how to save Google’s Algorithm. This escape room was created by me and is hosted across two websites I built, one of which the students use to create blogs. The escape room has three major tasks that need to be completed (order does not matter), and there are many ways students can achieve these tasks.  Furthermore, students are presented with a starting stimuli package that gives them enough clues to get started. Students are given approximately 1 hour to find and decrypt ‘Google’s Algorithm’ to save the world of digital marketing.

They are tasked with solving puzzles related to class content to gain clues to the overall problem. Each puzzle relates to an important class concept that tests their ability to draw upon their digital marketing knowledge to determine the solution. Furthermore, when students solve each puzzle, they are given a “hint” that relates to an additional class concept to solve the overall problem (finding and decrypting Google’s Algorithm). In order for students to be successful in the escape room, they must expand their knowledge structures about digital marketing and creatively consider each puzzle and overarching problem, all while working with group members and under the pressure of a short time limit.

During this class, I walk around (or when online--split students into breakout rooms and visit them) and help students with basic questions, giving just enough information to keep them on track and prevent them from being stuck too long. For example, part of their starting packet contains tables with numbers related to calculating common measures used in class; however, the students are given no instruction and must determine how best to tackle the problem to obtain the answer. In my Fall 2019 escape room, some groups managed to finish this task quickly once they realized they needed to calculate the same metrics used in a few of the case studies. However, another group spent a significant amount of time trying to figure out these tables only to realize (via my instruction) that one of their basic calculations was off.

In my Fall 2019 class, two of the groups finished with under 2 minutes to go while the others continued working after the time limit because they were determined to find it on their own and managed to finish within an additional 5-10 minutes. This task is an exhilarating experience as a teacher; I have rarely seen so much excitement and determination from students for an in-class activity. I am excited to offer the escape room repeatedly for years to come, improving it each time to ensure it stays up to date and covers class materials as in-depth as possible.