Florida State University Instructor Criticized for Klout Project

Social media

August 30, 2012

A college professor's social media class project has recently been the center of debate among educators and students.

According to Inside Higher Ed, Todd Bacile, instructor of an electronic-marketing class at Florida State University, came up with the "Klout Challenge"--a social media project graded entirely on his students' Klout score. Klout is an online service that measures a user's social influence based on engagement on networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Bacile hoped the project would help his students land internships or jobs after graduating.

"The idea for the project came about after a few conversations with hiring managers at advertising and marketing agencies," explained Bacile in an email to Inside Higher Ed. "I approached them asking how they use Klout. I was surprised to hear some of them say they check their applicants' Klout scores early on in the application process."

According to a blog post written by Bacile in Grow, the goal of the project was to illustrate social media engagement skills and strategies, which are necessary in the field of marketing.

"Engagement skills are what many firms are seeking in social media marketing interns and entry-level positions that my students are hoping to land, making this an ideal project within the classroom," wrote Bacile in his post.

As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the project required students to post interesting content as well as communicate with others on social media sites, activity that Klout monitors in order to come up with a user's score. Inside Higher Ed noted that the project accounted for 10 percent of a student's semester grade. If students did not want to partake, they have the option to write a paper instead. So far, only two students have opted out, according to Bacile.

Since word of his Klout Challenge went viral, many have criticized Bacile, arguing that employers do not look at applicants' Klout scores and that the scores are an inaccurate reflection on someone's social influence.

Tessa Revolinski, who graduated from Florida State with a marketing degree and took Bacile's course, said that while the challenge was a valuable marketing exercise, she did not think Klout's algorithm was accurate.

"It's not a very consistent measure of online influence," she said to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her score fluctuated throughout the course, but she ended with a 58, the highest in her class.

According to U.S. News & World Report, many other students feel the same way. Justin Chick, who has a B.A. in public relations from Webster University, called Klout a "joke". Inside Higher Ed also noted that critics have argued that educators should be teaching students to critique the value of such measurements, not promote them in the classroom.

While many may question the project, Bacile has stood his ground, stating that the focus was never meant to be on Klout; rather, the service was simply a venue where students could apply the lessons they learned in his class.

"In effect, Klout is a byproduct of what I want the students to learn and apply," Bacile said in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Florida State instructor sparks controversy with Klout score grades," insidehighered.com, August 30, 2012, Alexandra Tilsley

"Florida State U. Instructor Grades Students Based on 'Klout' Scores," chronicle.com, August 30, 2012, Angela Chen

"Florida State University class using Klout to determine student grades," businessgrow.com, August 26, 2012, Todd Bacile

"Professor Sparks Controversy for Klout-Based Grading," usnews.com, August 29, 2012, Menachem Wecker

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