Thinking Outside the Classroom: Using Social Media Platforms to Engage Students

by | Mar 3, 2017 | EduSocial Blog, Instructors, Tools | 0 comments

Registration is open for The Social Classroom! The course begins March 13th and runs for two weeks – a great opportunity to experience social media as a classroom tool first-hand while learning techniques you can use in your own environment.

A teacher’s competition today is fierce. Whether you’re presenting in a traditional university classroom, facilitating a discussion amongst adult learners in a continuing education course, or demonstrating how clients can get the most out of a product or service you offer as a small business owner, your students are guaranteed to have other interests and obligations tugging on their sleeves – sometimes quite literally. When students spend their days reacting to alerts from multiple devices, how can educators keep them engaged in the lesson at hand?

Meeting Them Where They Are

When I design fully online courses, one goal is to find a way to keep the student from having to “learn how to learn” over and over again throughout the course. For example, whenever possible, I follow a specific pattern for course expectations. Ideally, the students submit their assignments the same way each week, have the same or a similar expectation for participating in online discussions, etc. That pattern – once they’ve learned it the first week and maybe taken an additional week to really get used to it – can then run in the background of their minds, allowing them to really focus on the content they’re supposed to be learning. Gone is the stress of what format is acceptable, how will this be graded, and wondering if the submission process is simple. All of their energy is free to focus on the materials.

Similarly, meeting students on a social media platform they’re already using regularly or are at least familiar with accomplishes a similar goal. Consider the following example.


Assignment: Research your assigned topic, document your experiences on Instagram, and map your final product.

  1. Identify 3 resources (websites, in-person interviews, books, associations, etc.) that will provide a unique perspective for your research topic.
  2. Explore each resource, documenting your work with a minimum of two posts per resource on Instagram with #InstaResearch. Creativity in your posts is encouraged!
  3. Before completing your written research, craft a visual of your research process by creating a map or infographic that represents your process.

Depending on the subject, course level, etc., the remaining details of the assignment would vary greatly. But consider what adding this one small social media component to the research project will do.

  • All of the students can (and likely will) follow the hashtag to see what their peers are doing. They can provide each other with ideas and motivation, as well as the confidence that they, too, are completing the assignment correctly.
  • You will be able to see who is working on what…and when. This will allow you to send reminders if you aren’t seeing as much activity as you were hoping for and highlight student examples that might inspire others. Essentially, you have the opportunity to join them in their project sooner if they are struggling and praise them early on if they are doing something extraordinary.
  • Your students will realize you can see when they are working on their project. While it won’t work 100% of the time, it will often help them make better choices. For example, students who may wait to start a project until the night before it’s due are more likely to begin the process earlier if they know you will see their early efforts. Students might also be motivated to begin early because they don’t want you to see that they have waited until the last minute! Either way, you can help them make good choices.

Instagram is just one of many platforms you could use – and the assignment idea above is one of many for Instagram! The opportunities are endless. Modifications by topic, platform, and student demographics will influence how you modify your approach, but there’s something for everyone.

If You Can’t Beat (the alerts), Join Them

There are educators who ban devices in their classrooms. There are others (like me) that openly discuss the importance of choosing to be present in whatever you’re doing. Whatever approach you take, you have to address the beeps and pop-ups that are competing for your student’s attention.

But you can also join the alert system. If you use a Facebook group or messaging system to connect with your students, you can find ways to send them short messages or ideas to think about between regularly scheduled meeting times. You can tag your students on most platforms so they are alerted when you have found something to share. You have the opportunity to keep them thinking about your class and how they can apply the content to their continued development. The very tools you compete with in your classroom can become great support tools if you learn how to use them.

Recognize the Free, Well-Maintained Resources at Your Fingertips

Most teachers and trainers will admit that they rarely have access to the resources they’d like. Whether cost, maintenance, or the right support system is lacking, it’s a common place educators land. That’s the other beauty of social media and one you should definitely mention if your new social media classroom has to be approved by someone else!

When I was writing The Social Classroom course for the National Institute for Social Media, I really started thinking about the most common challenges teachers face. Time, money, engagement, and resources were all at the top of the list in university and business classrooms. Choosing to use a social media platform addresses all of those needs – assuming it’s in the hands of a creative thinker who’s willing to learn how to maximize the use of new tools in their classrooms!


Dr. Amy Jauman is the Chief Education Officer and Owner of Remotely Smart, a virtual company that provides professional development support to remote and traditional organizations. She is a Certified Social Media Strategist and Instructor with the National Institute for Social Media. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.

Lorrie Guerrieri pic

You can learn more about her by connecting on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and her blog!


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