Social media tools allow individuals to create and share information, ideas, videos, and photos and to collaborate in virtual communities. When faculty use social media it allows them to create opportunities for students to keep engaging and learning outside of class time. Using social media tools allows faculty to supplement or replace more traditional out-of-class activities, such as homework and reading assignments. We are seeing a steep increase in the use of social media for a few reasons:
  1. It allows faculty to create opportunities to engage students outside of the classroom setting;
  2. It gives students who have learning differences or who are introverted a more comfortable way to participate in the class conversation;
  3. Students have come to expect it to be used in the classroom;
  4. It can be a very enjoyable and engaging experience for both faculty and students.

While you might hesitate to use social media in the classroom because you fear that it will be difficult to learn or implement or will create grading burdens, I have found that the right tools are very easy to learn and they can actually make it easier to assess student participation and progress. In particular, I recommend three tools that are very easy to learn and use: Twitter, Youtube, and TedEd.


Twitter is a microblogging tool which limits users to short (140 character) communications. There are a number of ways to use Twitter to engage students, and I recommend that if you are new to Twitter you start small and build up. The easiest way to use Twitter is to tweet information to students. You can use Twitter as a “one way” communication device to post updates, announcements, links to online readings, and your comments about class concepts. The next step that faculty often take is to tweet links to materials that become the basis for quiz or exam questions or discussions in the next class. The “richest” way to use it is to open up discussion on the site to continue the class conversation outside of class. You can tweet links to content or questions for students to respond to, you can have them find and tweet content of their own, and you can have them respond to content or comments tweeted by other students.

Several years ago, I used Twitter to replace a traditional “real world” paper assignment with great success. When I moved this assignment to Twitter, the students didn’t have to spend so much time writing, and they picked much more relevant articles. It also forced them to make the connection clear – 140 characters doesn’t allow for much equivocating. Best of all, they were seeing and responding to the articles tweeted by others so I was keeping the conversation going. You can follow me on twitter (@TraceyRockett) to see some examples of tweets from me and from students.

I have a colleague who uses Twitter to allow students an alternative to speaking in class. She has students tweet responses to class discussions during and after class as their participation grade. This works especially well with introverts and other students who dislike talking in class, because they can plan their comments and no one is looking at them when they tweet. This technique also works well in large classes, because everyone has a chance to participate and you can track it easily. Based on my experience, I have several recommendations for making Twitter easier to use (and track).

Tips for using Twitter:

  • Create a unique hashtag to find things easily (#rocketttcu).
  • Require students to create an account and have them do a test tweet early.
  • Make sure they turn their privacy settings off.
  • If students don’t have a Twitter account or want to keep their current account private, they can create a course specific account (i.e. TCU_lastname) to keep things separate.


Millennials love YouTube! A report from the Intelligence Group states that 74% of 14-18 year olds and 68% of 19-24 year olds use YouTube. There are two basic ways to use YouTube in your classes: instructor-led or student-led. First, you can curate or create content to share with students. This might be short video clips that you add to a favorites list, or a YouTube channel, for students to view outside of class. Alternately, you can create your own content for students to view – review sessions, additional material you want to highlight after class, or lectures for students to watch before they come to class are all ways to use the tool.
You can also use YouTube to allow students to create content. Students often really enjoy creating content. Many students are comfortable using video creation tools and most phones and laptops have easy-to-use apps for creating videos. You can have students create and upload videos that add to course content. For example, I allow
my students to upload a video summarizing their group project. This has been a very popular option – students love to create videos, share them with the class, and watch the videos of other teams.

Tips for using YouTube:

  • Create a YouTube channel for students to watch or have students create their own channels.
  • If privacy is a concern, you can allow students to create a “private” video and then invite you via email.


The newest, and most interesting, tool that I have been playing with recently is TedEd. TedEd allows you to take Ted talks and/or YouTube videos and create lessons around them. Accounts are free for educators and it is an incredibly easy tool to use. You just set up an account and then click to create a lesson. You can either choose a Ted talk or YouTube video you are familiar with or search by subject area. Often when you search for a Ted speaker it will find and include other related videos that you can add to your lesson. Once you choose a video you are prompted to create questions, discussions, and have students think about issues related to the video you present.

Given the seamless integration with YouTube this is a great way to combine the videos that you or your students create and build a lesson around them. You can ask students to discuss the content and/or you could have students answer multiple choice questions to make sure that they are viewing and understanding content. This is a great addition to either a flipped classroom or a traditional one. Review an example of a quick and silly lesson that I just created.

Tips for TedEd:

  • Create quick content on days that school is cancelled due to inclement weather or university events, such as Honors Convocation.
  • Try it out if you are thinking of flipping your classroom (allows you to do a mini-flip).
  • Use it to add videos that you don’t have time to cover in class.

Adding social media options to your classes has never been easier! Don’t be afraid to play around with the vast array of tools at your disposal. If you would like more information about these tools, or information about other tools, email me at

Tracey Rockett
This article was written by Tracey Rockett, Department of Management, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership, and Koehler Center Fellow for Distance Education, for the Fall 2015 Issue of Insights.