Social media is embedded in our culture. Online users regularly visit multiple sites each day to interact with their online community of family and friends, post and distribute content, and consume information. Social media sites are databases where our students go to communicate before and during class sessions. Since our students are using the platforms regularly, I wanted to find a way to integrate social media assignments and interactivity within my courses.

Even though students regularly use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites to review a funny meme, watch a new reality series, re-tweet the latest celebrity news, or post pictures, they may not want to connect with their instructor away from the classroom on a platform they use as their daily communication tool. According to a report published for Pew Internet Research, 4 percent of teenagers said that learning new information was a positive influence of using social media according. Communicating with family and friends, interactivity, expression, and entertainment were much more important to young adults when using social media. Therefore, it is imperative for faculty to look for ways to use social media in the classroom so that students learn to use the sites as a tool for learning, engagement, and discussion of course content. Here are some things that have worked for me.

1. Start slowly by building community.
If you immediately add social media to your course, students may not feel comfortable connecting with you or they may not want to create an additional social media profile just for your course. First, build community with your program and content by introducing the idea of social media without requiring assignments or evaluation. Facebook lets you create Groups that provide an environment to discuss ideas and issues and share content. Create a Facebook Group and invite students to share articles, photos, opinions, and other forms of content relating to the discipline. A Facebook Group will help your students become comfortable interacting with you while learning new material that relates to the classroom discussion. Additionally, you can use the Group to show potential new students the type of issues and subjects your courses cover.

2. Survey your students.
Once you have an online community centered on your program, I recommend doing a quick survey. (I use Google Forms or SurveyMonkey.) Ask students if they are interested in social media platforms being intertwined with their course, which sites they’d like to use, and what they want to learn when using a social media platform.

About the Author:

Tom Kenny is a full-time instructor for the communications department at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, NY. He teaches courses focusing on media studies, film & television production, social media, and creating professional content for the Web. He is the co-author of the textbook Producing New and Digital Media: Your Guide to Savvy Use of the Web.


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