TikTokHow TikTok is being used to educate Generation Z

How TikTok is being used to educate Generation Z

Social media can help universities promote and widen public engagement in research

Since its launch in 2018, TikTok – the short-form video-sharing platform – has exploded in popularity. Earlier this year, the company launched its Learn on TikTok programme to promote educational values and encourage educators to post informative content on the platform.

In a virtual panel event for THE Live UK, representatives from TikTok and the higher education sector came together to demonstrate how new media can present opportunities for university staff and students.

Max Tobin, who produces educational video channels on TikTok, explained that he works with PhD students to create factual content inspired by questions from the channel’s followers, “from academic questions like what happens inside a black hole, to why pee is yellow”.

“We want to make sure the content is accurate but also fun,” Tobin said. “The fact that viewers can interact by sending us questions has been an amazing tool…and helps us to create more content.”

Tobin believes not only do social media increase public interest in learning, but that his platform can be used to debunk conspiracy theories – he created a video titled “proving masks do help in a pandemic” – and break down taboos.

Similarly, university educators can use the platform to create fun, helpful content while increasing public engagement and awareness of their own research, the panel agreed.

Glenn Hurst, associate professor in chemistry education at the University of York, and Katie Lamb, a University of Liverpool technician, explained how they have used TikTok in combination with pedagogical frameworks to facilitate scientific public engagement and contextualisation of their own work.

“[It] allows us to teach students in a way where we transition from a reductionist and isolated approach…towards a more holistic and integrated understanding of subject matter,” Hurst said. “We achieve that through practical experiment, games and specifically through social media.”

Learn on TikTok now surpasses 100 million monthly users in Europe. Not only is it popular, but it is mainly used by Generation Z, making it ideal for reaching new student audiences, Lamb said.

In March 2020, Lamb and Hurst invited participants with different levels of scientific understanding to provide feedback on their videos, the outcomes of which were published in a paper in The Journal of Chemical Education.

“The majority of participants stated they had learned something new from the videos, felt inspired to create the experiments at home and had an increased interest in chemistry as a direct result,” said Lamb. “If used correctly, TikTok can provide a new tool for educators to improve teaching, dissemination and public engagement.”

The entire session is available above and on the THE YouTube channel. You can also access all the THE Live UK material here.

Find out more about TikTok.

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