I’m a Squared Online Graduate!

I started my Squared Online – Google’s digital marketing course- journey in July 2014 and am very proud to say I graduated on Thursday!

If you are interested in the course, I have blogged throughout. One of the highlights of the course has been the people I have got to meet in my two project groups – really talented, clever people who were a pleasure to work with.

I have learnt a lot from the course but as it’s an online course, you do need to put in the time and effort. I’m particularly proud of my team’s Google Analytics report for the fourth project. Our group was cited as one of the best reports overall and my Conversion Report was chosen as ‘the best of’! For our last project we had to produce a Whitepaper and our group got the insurance sector. Once again ours was cited in the live graduation class as one of the best, so I’m immensely proud of my group and the hard work we put in.

Congratulations to all my fellow July cohort Squares and all the best to those still on the journey or those starting out. Give it your all!

Squared Online – lessons from Projects 2 and 3

The problem with managing a blog professionally is that you start to neglect your own blog… oh dear.

I’m now in my last module for Google’s Squared Online course and the last update I did was on lessons learnt from project one, so I’m a bit behind… forgive me.

I’ve now completed four projects – the first one you do on your own and the rest are done in a group. After module 2 and 3 you are put into a different group where you complete module 4 and 5.

In my first group, we didn’t do very well in our first project but we did considerably better in the second, which was all about marketing. The reasons for this is that we could see from the feedback from the first project just exactly what the tutors were expecting and we put more time and effort into the second group project. Don’t get me wrong, we worked hard on our first project but worked harder on our second.

After module 3 I joined my new group and am delighted to say we got an excellent mark in our first project together, which was all about Google Analytics. Unfortunately we had to work over Christmas and New Year, which wasn’t exactly ideal.

So lessons learnt from projects 2 and 3 are:

  • What worked in your first group may not necessarily work in your second because the group dynamics are different. And that’s ok.
  • The more you understand the project brief and what’s expected (and what the tutors are looking for), the better you will do.
  • Listen carefully in your online class as hints to what’s expected in the project are often given during class. You also have the opportunity to ask questions at the end.
  • If you’re not clear, ask. We emailed Support a few times for clarity. Do this before starting any research etc so as to not waste time.
  • Share your score and feedback with your fellow Squares. There is an active private Google Plus group for our cohort and after every project some of us share our scores. With the blessing of my group, I’ve also emailed our report to groups with a low (or lower) score who wanted to see how we had got a high score. Being open to sharing helps facilitate learning so be willing to share.
  • Make the time. This course is very time consuming but it’s only worthwhile if you put in the time and effort to do the pre and post class tasks and your project. In fact, most of what you learn will come from the project – putting into practice what has been covered (sometimes briefly) in class.

The end of the course is fast approaching but in the meantime, there’s still a project to submit so stay tuned for lessons from project 4!

Squared Online – lessons from Project One

If you’ve been following my Squared Online journey, you’ll know that we completed our first group project last month. In my last blog post, I said how happy I was with our completed project and that I thought we’d do really well.

We didn’t.

In fact, we received the pass mark. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement but after a little digging, we found that actually a lot of groups had received just the pass mark (6) or a 7. The feedback from our marker was rather frustrating as at times it seemed a bit too vague. For example:

“Provide compelling evidence to support your business ideas ability to deliver long-term growth”

We were asked to provide ‘compelling evidence’ but given no indication as to what this compelling evidence should have been. Suffice to say we challenged our feedback and were pleased to receive more detailed comments and also one section where our score changed from a 6 to a 7.

Having looked at some of the other group’s presentations, which were shared via our Google Plus group, it was clear that we hadn’t gone in to as much detail as those who scored higher than us.

Lessons learnt:

1. Much more is expected than is defined in the project brief.

2. If you think you’ve done enough research, you haven’t.

3. Make sure your audio covers more than what is already on the slides. Our feedback was that we needed to add more depth.

4. Two areas that really seem to matter in terms of marking are: originality of your idea and scalability.

5. Don’t be afraid. We weren’t happy with our feedback so we challenged it. This ensured we had more detailed feedback to actually learn from and put in to practice.

Our next project is due next week and we’re hoping to improve on the last score. So, watch this space!

Squared Online project and lessons from working in a virtual group

I have just completed Module Two: Think Commercial of Google’s Squared Online course, where I learnt about the rise of digital and how some businesses are harnessing technology to disrupt traditional businesses (think Airbnb and how they are disrupting travel agents, hotels, classified ads etc). This module was definitely a step-up from the first module in terms of complexity and workload.

Students were put into groups and we had to complete our first group project – to produce an online business idea in the style of a presentation with an audio voice-over. Initially my group had seven people but by the first couple of emails two had dropped out of the course, leaving us with five. One member of our group was rather elusive and didn’t attend the first or second Google Hangout and, to be honest, we had doubts that they were going to contribute at all. Luckily they did make the third hangout and turned out to be a valuable member of the group.

We will only receive our grades for the project by 7 November so I can’t tell you how we did. I do believe we have a strong product and our pitch was really good so fingers crossed for a good mark!

Lessons learnt from working in a virtual group

  • You need someone to step up as project manager to coordinate meetings (via Skype/Hangout or even in person if you are able to).
  • Assign action points after each meeting and summarise what was discussed in a follow-up email.
  • Use collaborative working tools such as Google Drive or even the group forum in the Squared Online campus so that people can work, edit and feedback on the go.
  • Set deadlines for each stage of the process so that there is always a goal to work towards.
  • Allow the team to feedback on the final presentation and give enough time to edit if needed before the project deadline.
  • Be realistic – everyone in our team works full time and has responsibilities outside of their jobs so be realistic about what can be achieved in the time that you have.
  • Quality over aesthetics – everyone wants to have a sleek, professional looking presentation but it’s more important that the business idea is actually viable so spend more time on fine tuning your idea rather than designing slides and graphics.
  • Be polite and be a team player – it’s important that everyone contributes and pulls their weight. Sometimes group members may disagree on something, which is perfectly normal, but the key is to be polite and constructive – not destructive.

This may be an online course but it’s designed to reflect real life, hence why we are put into groups with people who live in different countries. It forces you to find ways of working together and to overcome challenges such as time differences, strong personalities, different cultures and juggling other work and life commitments with meeting a project deadline. Luckily I have a great project group and I’m already looking forward to working with them on the next project

Thoughts on Squared Online Module One

I promised to post about my Squared Online journey so here are my thoughts now that module one is complete.

The first module is all about A connected world and it forced us to think about our own digital life. If I’m honest, I found this module rather basic but I understand that the course is made up of around 300 – 400 people all with varying levels of experience and we need to start somewhere. From module two, where we are put into groups to work on our projects, it steps up in terms of level of difficulty.

At the end of module one we had to complete a project, which was to create a video to introduce ourselves to our fellow ‘Squares’. Having no prior experience of creating a video, I was considering just doing a basic webcam video. However, the whole point of me taking part in this course was to learn, so learn I did. I used Window’s Movie Maker to create my video and although the recommended time to finish the project was 2 hours, this probably took me about 6. Yes, seriously…

It’s not a great video, I admit. But I did it all by myself with no help at all and I’m really rather proud of it. If it were a picture, I would have stuck it to my fridge with a magnet.

Module two will look at how to think commercially and the project looks challenging. Bring it on!

Squared Online- a digital journey

Last night was my first Squared Online course. Squared Online is Google’s Digital Marketing course and I will be embarking on this virtual learning journey over the next six months.

These are my thoughts so far:

1. The classes are all conducted online, every Thursday night from 7 – 8pm. This is a challenge for me as I much prefer face-to-face. I found (when it was enabled), the reams of messages from fellow Squares rather distracting. Looking at them too much made me feel slightly sea sick. On the plus side, I was in my pajamas and sipping a cider – not something you can do in a face-to-face class…(at least I don’t think you can).

2. From module 2 (or maybe it’s 3…I forget) we will be put into groups ranging from 5 to 8 people and assessed as a group. Again, this is challenging for me. I’m not a perfectionist but I feel slightly uneasy about having to rely on people I don’t know to pull their weight and make as much out of the course as I plan to do.

3. I need to get over the unease of virtual classes and group work and just get on with it.

Things I’m looking forward to are:

1. Making the most of this opportunity and learning as much as I possibly can, then putting it into practice.

2. Meeting new people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures, with different levels of experience and hopefully having lots of interesting discussions (note: discussions, not arguments).

3. Challenging myself.

4. Sharing what I’ve learnt.

I’ll be posting about my journey along the way so check back for regular updates.

Oh, and if you’re also taking part: I’m in the green group. If you are too and you’re on Twitter, let me know and I’ll add you to my list.