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How to use social media to engage students

Fri Aug 19, 2022 at 03:29 PM

Two weeks ago, CORE students met in person for the first time since the pandemic began. CORE, or Collectively Oakland Retains Everyone, is a program run by the Center for Multicultural Initiatives. It helps students succeed through advising, tutoring, mentoring, career/major exploration, workshops and counseling. VaNessa Thompson, CORE coordinator, said it was a challenge to reach all students when they weren’t in the same space, but she’s learned to embrace social media to reach students. 

“Bringing students to where we want them to be also means meeting them where they are,” said Thompson. “Students just want to connect and that’s something they have been lacking and missing the last two years.” 

Right now, she connects with students on TikTok. Using video clips of bite-sized information, Thompson can teach and engage right where students are at. She said the 60-second snippets can be fun or thought-provoking. 

“You can put out a nugget of wisdom and tell the viewers to do with it what they will,” said Thompson. 

During the pandemic, when most students were learning remotely, Thompson began to share study strategies, useful routines and other tips via TikTok. In one video, she demonstrated how to import a Word document in PowerPoint and let the software create the presentation. She said the video racked up more than 50,000 views in just several hours. 

“I don’t chase views. If you are constantly chasing those metrics, you’ll never be happy,” said Thompson. “The videos I post warrant engagement. It’s genuine. I don’t want to be a millennial pretending to be a Gen Z.”

Thompson’s content comes from her life experience. She said she created videos about how she wrote a paper in 24 hours while she had COVID. She’s also created behind-the-scenes videos of preparing for classes. Thompson said many people are nervous about trying TikTok, but it’s a very real way to engage with students. 

“It’s one way of pulling that veil back and showing the Wiz is just a person,” said Thompson. 

In her role, Thompson said if she posts a video to social media, her goal is to let students know that OU has an office that provides support and to reiterate the intensity of the support CMI can give to students. 

“My goal is to make higher education achievable and accessible. I want to be transparent about how I do that without being weird about it. I use social media to show how I’m doing it and how I go about it,” said Thompson. 

Besides sharing information about CORE and CMI, she uses her content to show others how the process works for her personally. As a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership program, Thompson shares her experiences on things like paying for graduate school and juggling her job and her coursework. 

Thompson said besides using social media to connect with students, it can also be used for professional networking and connecting with peers. She said she has connected with instructors from all over the country through social media. They are of all ages and demographics, but they have one thing in common–engaging students. 

While Thompson is focusing on TikTok, she said others get the same thing out of other forms of social media, such as Instagram. However, the content needs to be authentic and real. If not, don’t do it.  

“If it’s not your ministry, let’s not force it,” Thompson said. “You can be a consumer and comment on posts or you can be a creator.” 

Thompson said watching other’s content and responding or engaging with it can help make connections as well. 

Thompson said we’ve always been communicating. While it may have once been through letters, then morphed into phone calls or even email, all that has really changed is the vehicle for how to communicate and connect. 

“Growing up, email was the tool. It was our social tool. How fast did that become the standard? Human interaction transcends through that. Social media and technology are there to complement what we do,” said Thompson. “It’s mutually beneficial. I’m helping with retention and keeping students enrolled by providing advice and information and I’m able to learn to maneuver social media a little bit differently.” 

To share your experiences using social media or other tools, participate in the OU Faculty Teaching Community. It’s an eSpace for sharing ideas, resources and tips with other OU instructors.