March 25, 2011

SIUC to offer event planning courses online

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The behind-the-scenes planning that goes into making meetings, conventions and other events come off without a hitch takes professional know-how, management skills and legal knowledge.

And now students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and beyond can earn a certificate that prepares them for just those challenges, and do so at a distance.

“Event Planning and Management” is a new, fully online certificate course offered under the Hospitality and Tourism Administration major, a program in the Department of Animal, Science Food and Nutrition in the College of Agricultural Sciences. The course is aimed at undergraduates, who can earn elective credits toward their bachelor’s degrees, and professionals, who can earn continuing education units by taking the course.

Nicole L. Davis, instructor in the department, said students in the program would use the convenience of an online learning environment while learning to apply the skills needed to coordinate events in a fast-growing industry.

“We decided to do this first online course as event planning and management because we have a lot of student demand for these courses,” Davis said. “This area of our industry -- convention and meeting planning -- is one of the fastest growing.”

The program will kick off this fall. As currently organized, students will take two courses each semester, fall, spring and summer, earning a certificate in one year.

For undergraduate students majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Administration, the courses will count as electives. Successful completion of the program will earn the student a certificate in event planning and management in addition to their bachelor’s degree.

Post-graduate professionals also can benefit from the program, Davis said, either by beefing up their credentials or simply earning CEUs.

Courses offered include “Introduction to Professional Event Coordination,” “Trade Show Management,” “Event Entertainment and Production,” “Sports Event Management,” “Event Marketing and Sponsorship,” and “Event Risk Management and Safety.”

“We designed the program to touch on a broad variety,” she said. “We have students who want to manage a large diversity of events, from wedding planning to big-name concerts to the Olympics.”

The program, which is open to all majors at SIUC, will use a variety of online tools to present material. The program will make use of Google applications for document sharing and other functions, as well as the campus’ Blackboard system. It also will utilize podcasts, open source tools, social networking sites and YouTube, among others, to present a truly multimedia approach to learning.

“Students coming out of high school today don’t learn the way students did in the past. They are used to using technology to learn, and we have to keep up with these demands,” Davis said. “We’ve been hearing for some time from them asking if we offer online courses and now we do.”

The program is offered through the Office of Continuing Education at SIUC.

Davis said the course is designed to be just as rigorous as a traditional, brick-and-mortar class, and students will need to be disciplined to succeed.

“We will do a lot of audio and video podcasts, discussion forums interaction and interactive chat sessions, as well as group work online,” Davis said. “There will be just as much demand on their time as a regular course. With online courses, you have to be a good time manager. They will spend just as much time and effort, but the delivery is just different.”

The program already has a multifaceted online presence, with a blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. Go to, or for more information, or contact Davis at 618/453-5193 or