How different subjects can use social media in higher education

Monday, September 11, 2017 09:00

Katherine Hockley by Katherine Hockley

Social media is a perfect way of incorporating edtech into real world examples, so we've come up with a few subject-specific ways lecturers can use social media as part of their taught curriculum. 

First of all, we can concentrate on the use of social media that would benefit any subject area. 

Using Twitter to engage with questions and topics during lectures

Instead of pausing for questions and no-one wanting to ask something, they can simply tweet with a lecture or course specific hashtag during the lesson to be reviewed at the end. This is a simple but effective way of nurturing engagement and allowing for thoughtful discussion. 

Encouraging the use of Facebook to organise team work

Be it via a group message or Facebook group. This will be easier, faster and more accessible than email chains, and Facebook shows when someone has seen a post, so there'll be no way of pretending that they didn't check their emails. You may choose to facilitate and create the groups - but this is not a necessity. 

READ MORE: The pros and cons of edtech in higher education

Live video

Facebook or Twitter live videos is a great way to share things like live conferences with students, or live Q&As (where students can type questions) with people of interest. 

Moving on to subject areas, here are a few examples of how social media could be used in the classroom. 


Statistics & analysis

A real life example of gathering data from a social media channel created for the class could be a good way to get students thinking about real world applications of their skills. You could ask students to export the information and present it in a readable way, as well draw conclusions and suggest strategies based on the data.

Media & communications

Social media is an important part of marketing and communication, as well as news reporting. Running a social media campaign for a class project will be useful practice, and students can use scheduling tools and listening tools in order to get an understanding of what companies really do behind the scenes. For something like journalism, using a social media event or story (such as #Gamergate) as the basis of a graded piece of work about the implications of online journalism (such as the role of gatekeeping and the public sphere) allows students to use tech and modern examples to explore (sometimes dry or hypothetical) academic ideas. 

READ MORE: How to make lectures more interactive with edtech in higher education


Instagram is the obvious tool for those studying and creating art in order to share their ideas. Social media may also be used to discuss the everchanging philosophical definiton of 'art.' When it comes to subjects like History, Geography, Politics, Sociology, and International Development, we may consider looking at themes related to those subjects, such as the use of social media as a tool for impacting change, creating cultural issues (such as the idea of digital blackface) or even as a modern day tool for propaganda.


STEM subjects

Science communication skills can be honed by using social media in a way that gives scientists the opportunity to share their findings in an easy to understand way. Asking students to write a blog of their findings and the implications may be a great way of doing this. Social media is also a good way of focusing on the visual, so setting a task that focuses on the design side of engineering (where applicable) on something like Pinterest or Instagram will be a great way to showcase that side of their work. 


An example for law would be looking at the legal side of social media through an exercise - take a scroll through a faux newsfeed and identify any copyright or defamation examples.

Performance arts

YouTube is an excellent way of using social media for performing arts students. Filming a performance and uploading it to YouTube would allow for peer assessment as well as personal review (and the ability to build up a digital showreel).

These are just a few examples of how social media could be incorporated into higher education, and no doubt there are many more ways certain subjects could integrate it into their teachings.

Including social media in lessons can hope to aim at increased engagement via participation, dummy runs of real life tasks that will be useful for students post-university, and by allowing the use of academic theory to be viewed under a modern, example-laden lense. 

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Posted in Higher Education