By Mark Eric Benson, Manuel Feldmann and Shanshan Thompson
It is an accomplishment worthy of recognition by the Illinois Community Ambassadors–Aric Rindfleisch, John M. Jones Professor of Marketing and Executive Director of the Illinois Maker Lab, eclipsed 200,000 enrolled learners in his pathbreaking Massive Online Open Course, “Marketing in a Digital World.” It is amazing to consider that one of the most popular MOOCs in history may never have been created.
A couple of years ago, a Dean at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign approached Professor Rindfleisch to see if he might want to create a new course on digital marketing. He was apprehensive, unsure if he could do it. After some additional thought and reflection, he decided that he would try to update Theodore Leavitt’s 4Ps of marketing—Product, Promotion, Place and Price-for the digital age.
In the new course he designed and launched, “Marketing in a Digital World.” Professor Rindfleisch wanted to emphasize new concepts in digital marketing—such as co-creation—that he predicted would be relevant in digital marketing for years in the future. Students were impressed, and began to enroll in the thousands. Now the number of enrolled learners in “Marketing in a Digital World” is greater than 205,0000, an amazing accomplishment for Professor Rindfleisch and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Business School, now the Larry and Beth Gies College of Business.
The course and its professor have consistently received rave reviews. According to Inc,’s reviewer, “Marketing in a Digital World” was one of the top 10 most popular business-related courses on Coursera in 2015. That same year, a reviewer in Entrepreneurship promoted this popular MOOC as one of the free online courses that can benefit every entrepreneur.
Over the years, more than 2,000 students wrote to Professor Rindfleisch to tell him how much they loved his course. The Illinois Community Ambassadors Mark Eric Benson, Manuel Feldmann and Shanshan Thompson had the chance to talk with Professor Rindfleisch about the success of the course.
Interview With Professor Rindfleisch
Illinois Community Ambassadors: When you launched the “Marketing in a Digital World” course, you hoped to teach as many as would like to learn about the basics of digital marketing. Why was this important to you? What motivated you to share your knowledge with others?
Professor Rindfleisch: To be honest, teaching this course wasn’t my idea. I was asked to teach it by one of our Associate Deans. I didn’t have any prior experience teaching digital marketing, so I was a bit apprehensive but finally agreed to do it. So, my main hope was that it wouldn’t be terrible and that people would find it interesting.As a professor, our job is creating and sharing knowledge. So being able to share ideas with a global community of learners was exciting.
Illinois Community Ambassadors: What are some of the learning goals you hoped to accomplish by making the course, “Marketing in a Digital World,” available to learners via Coursera?
Professor Rindfleisch: I don’t think I had explicit learning goals (I usually don’t). I mainly hoped that people would find it interesting and come away with a different view of marketing. Specifically, I wanted to deliver the message that the digital revolution has empowered customers by giving them access to the tools that only marketers had before.
Illinois Community Ambassadors: Based on the latest count, how many students have registered for “Marketing in a Digital World?”
Professor Rindfleisch: We currently have approximately 205,000 registered learners!
Illinois Community Ambassadors: Many students have posted positive reactions to this course. What learning goals do students say are the most personally rewarding? Professionally rewarding?
Professor Rindfleisch: I have received over 2,000 stories from our learners around the world. Thank you! They send all kinds of messages–luckily, most of them are positive. The most common message is that the course gave them fresh insights. This is always great to hear, as this was my main goal.
Illinois Community Ambassadors: What student reactions do you recall that have resonated with you and reminded you of your desire to teach many people the basics of digital marketing.
Professor Rindfleisch: The best reaction is when a learner who is currently a student at another school tells me that they are learning things that they are not currently being taught.
Illinois Community Ambassadors: What are some of the reasons why you believe it is such a popular course?
Professor Rindfleisch: I think there are a number of reasons–Digital Marketing is a hot topic, the course offers some new insights and it received some positive reviews from some media outlets such as Inc magazine and Entrepreneur magazine, which helped it gain attention. Also, being part of the University of Illinois and the iMBA definitely helps.
Illinois Community Ambassadors: Thank you very much for the interview, professor!