Regardless of one’s view on its merits, social media has quickly become a necessary component of our daily lives. Social media apps weave a thread through every area of our lives, connecting our professional, consumer, and personal decisions and actions. Businesses, schools, and government entities have picked up on the value of social media and have integrated it into their day-to-day operations.
The impact of social media is no different in the classroom. Instructors and school administrators have taken to social media to connect with students, share important information, and establish a presence outside the classroom. Despite the value of employing social media in the classroom, it carries some dangers as well. Social media can sometimes blur the lines of professional relationships, or it can alienate those who don’t like social media or don’t know how to use it. To avoid these potential pitfalls, it’s important to develop a philosophy of social media so you can ensure that you properly represent the institution and maintain the instructor–student distinction. The following are some best practices for using social media in your course.
Make it optional.
- Not every student uses social media or wants to interact with classmates through social media. If some students don’t wish to participate, then respect their decision. If students feel pressured to go on social media against their will, their motivation for the rest of the course will suffer. By keeping the social media component optional, you do not penalize students who would not benefit from it.
- Social media should supplement education. Too much emphasis on social media can distract students away from course content and requirements. For example, sending students to search YouTube for videos on a certain topic can easily lead to a rabbit trail of funny animal videos. Instead, you could assign a unique article or video to each student, and students are then responsible to post their material to the class Facebook group and explain how it relates to that week’s course objective. The social media component should point students back to what they are doing in the course, not consume their time and energy to the detriment of their course involvement.
Clarify course expectations and connections.
- Set clear expectations for social media use in the course. Give students an idea of how much time they should expect to spend on social media, and remind them of basic netiquette guidelines. Also make sure to set clear objectives for using social media that connect with the course objectives. For example, if one of your course objectives is for students to be able to explain how to develop a brand, you could have students go to different companies’ Twitter pages and retweet posts that they think reinforce each company’s brand identity.
Practice clear and effective communication.
- Because it’s important to maintain the distinction between your role as the instructor and their role as students, be aware of how a status update or post can come across to students. Generally, some students might not receive jokes and sarcasm well, especially if a student’s relationship with the instructor exists only within the bounds of the online classroom. Keep social media communication professional and relevant to the course objectives.
Respect student privacy.
- Jyothi Thalluri and Joy Penman (2015) advise instructors to have students adjust their privacy settings to whatever is most comfortable for them. Let students know that they can either create a new social media account specifically for your course or use an existing account with appropriate privacy settings. Finally, keep in mind FERPA regulations when posting in the social media platform. That means no public communication about an individual student’s grades or progress in the course.
Social media provides a creative platform where you can interact with and instruct students. Because of its prevalence in today’s culture, most students have access to social media, making it an easy and accessible tool to supplement online education. Developing a philosophy of social media helps you maintain respect and integrity in your course.
Thalluri, J., & Penman, J. (2015). Social media for learning and teaching undergraduate sciences: Good practice guidelines for intervention. The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 13(6), 455–465. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1087212.pdf