This fall I will be going into my fourth year here at Carleton.  Over the past three years the use of social media in lectures, tutorials, or as channels for students to collaborate, has evolved dramatically.

Given the theme of this month’s Spotlight on IT, I wanted to share with you my experiences using social media in the classroom and offer a few suggestions to faculty members who wish to continue or start implementing social media in their teaching plans.

Facebook in the Classroom

At my first lecture the professor had us add her on Facebook for participation marks. Throughout the semester, students had to find an article, YouTube video, or current event online that was relevant to the content discussed in the previous lecture.

This course requirement was a helpful way to promote interaction with the professor and among classmates, as we could all openly engage with each other outside of class by commenting on or “liking” each other’s posts. In addition, by searching for and posting course-related content, students were applying concepts, theories, and ideas from the textbook and lectures to real life situations, which led to a deeper understanding and interpretation of the material.

Although great in theory, some students weren’t comfortable with adding their prof as a ‘friend’.  What might have been better was for the professor to create a group on Facebook and encourage people to join.  This group can then be closed or open, depending on the topics discussed.

YouTube in the Classroom

In the following year, I had a professor who enjoyed showing YouTube videos to apply theoretical concepts to modern day examples.  The videos were reasonably short, which allowed students to stay focused for the entire duration.  Each video was entertaining and creative, which generated a “fun” perspective to sometimes heavy, intense material.

When it came time to study for the final, my peers and I found concepts easier to memorize and understand because each video provided a visual aspect to what was previously presented as ideas and facts written on paper.

Twitter in the Classroom

In multiple classes, I have had professors and TAs share their Twitter usernames so that students could follow them as a means to ask quick questions with regards to the course. Students were also asked to tweet a fact, discussion question, or share comments about what they found interesting from the previous lecture, followed by the use of a specific hashtag provided by the professor each week. Through clicking each hashtag we were all able to see each tweet submitted from each student and view responses from the instructors and other students.

Twitter is an ideal application to use due to the fact that it is instantaneous and easy to use. Not to mention, Twitter teaches its users to be as thorough, yet concise as possible with the 140-character limit!

Three Things to Consider when Using Social Media in the Classroom

Social media has now been proven to assist with teaching and learning in higher education. According to 4 Ways to Use Social Media in Learning by Dian Schaffhauser, “social media continues to offer great promise for enhancing learning in the classroom”.

If you are an instructor interested in using social media in the classroom, here are some things to consider:

  1. Some students aren’t on social media. While this sounds rare, it is still a population that needs to be considered. If there are students that do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts, they should be offered another option that still allows for these students to interact with the instructor and their classmates. In most of my classes the only alternative offered was to write a paper, which to me does not offer the same benefits.
  2. Diminishing professional boundaries. While it is important for a student to interact with their instructor, faculty members must address boundaries/guidelines prior to initiating their social media plan (i.e.: telling students they can only send tweets to the instructor if they are related to the course, or perhaps making another Facebook account that is separate from a personal one).
  3. Take it offline. In Schaffhauser’s article (mentioned above) a professor had students create short video summaries of specific lecture and textbook content and upload them to YouTube for the professor and other classmates to view. Those who did not wish to upload a video online had the option to present in front of the professor during his office hours. This strategy takes the use of YouTube to a whole new level! As a student, I think it is important to be able to demonstrate what one has learned in a unique, creative, and relaxed way.

Instructors at Carleton that aspire to use social media in the future, or instructors that are currently using social media in their curriculum, may want to turn to the Educational Development Centre to access technology guides, teaching tips and tools, and to see why it doesn’t hurt to “get social” at Carleton.


By Madison Pearce, a fourth year communications student at Carleton and currently doing a co-op placement with Web Services in ITS.