Social Media Assignment Ideas For Professors

By: Karen Freberg

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Social media is one of my favorite classes to teach at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. It’s inspiring to see so many students who want to pursue a career in the fast-changing field. But social media is one of the most demanding, time-consuming, and challenging courses to teach and take at the university level right now.

The social media landscape is always changing, and so too do the assignments, lessons, and syllabi. Professors and students alike have to work twice as hard (maybe even three times as hard) compared to other classes just to keep up with the industry.

There are many ways to set up a social media class, but there are a few steps I take before each semester. First, I determine the focus of the class and what I want to cover. Is this going to be an introduction course or an advanced strategy course?

Next, I break the semester down into different modules of areas to cover, such as introducing social media and ending the semester with future implications and trends. The last thing I do is add the specific assignments and tie in the relevant articles, resources, and videos I want the students to consume. There is a structure to the class with some room to adapt and change due to the evolution of social media trends.

Types of classroom exercises I do

The class I teach at the University of Louisville is framed more like a strategic communications capstone class. We work with real clients in Louisville and the students have a semester-long group project creating a social media proposal. However, there are some individual assignments that capture the students’ own interests and relate to social media. Here are some of the exercises I incorporate into my classroom:

Online reputation audit

Knowing how to evaluate your brand on social is just as important as having one. I have my students work on doing not just an audit of their own personal brand, but have them compare it to professionals they would want to work with at an agency, startup, or major brand. The audit I have my students conduct was inspired by the assignment Keith Quesenberry created for doing a brand social media audit.

Hootsuite’s Student Program

I was first introduced to the Hootsuite Student Program a few years ago by William Ward and have been a fan ever since—the program is taught in my class each semester. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about how to use the Hootsuite dashboard. While in the program, the students are able to practice writing updates, creating their own reports and lists, and monitoring hashtags, as well as view lessons on current topics from leading experts in the social media industry. At the end of the program, students are able to complete an exam and receive their Hootsuite Platform Certification.

Student workshops

With a fast-changing landscape like social media, oftentimes the students have something to teach the professor. Last semester one of my students, Danielle Henson—who was our resident class expert on Snapchat—conducted a class workshop on how to design and create your own branded Snapchat filter.

She created a brief presentation for the class, and then opened up Photoshop and walked through the process of how to create a filter.

Social media etiquette and class participation

In order to teach social media, you have to use social media. What better way than to set up a community on a platform like Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, or even one designated specifically for a class? I am a fan of Twitter, so this is the platform I use. But if you are going to be using any platform for class, you want to share your own email and social media etiquette policy with the students so they know your expectations for the class discussion.

This is a brief guideline of what you expect from the students from their online correspondence and interaction with you, their fellow classmates, and the online community. Similar to what you see from a social media policy for brands and other organizations, this provides a framework of communication and online expectations for proper conduct you have for the class.

Strategy briefs using social media

This assignment helps students think strategically about how to use social media for local businesses, non-profits, or clients. This is one from my class that focused on Snapchat.

The point of the strategic brief is to outline key objectives (what do you want to accomplish with Snapchat, for example), and your target audience. The next part is coming up with strategies and tactics for the platform, such as building brand awareness, hosting social media takeovers, and running ads and contests. The last part of the lesson outlines how you will evaluate success—new followers, click-throughs, and engagement, for example.

How and where I find new teaching topics

As noted, social media is a constantly-evolving space, and coming up with new and innovative assignments for students is a challenge. Luckily I have many different ways to generate new ideas.

I participate in Twitter chats

There are many chats that are beneficial for both the students and the professor: #Hootchat, #HESM, #SMSports (for social media and sports), #PRprofs (for PR professors), #SMSsportschat (for sports business and PR), #ChatSnap (all about Snapchat) are some of the ones I follow on a regular basis.

I keep in touch with alumni who are working in social media

I do this primarily on Twitter and there is a class alumni hashtag that former students are encouraged to use to share social media advice and tips with current students.

I follow other social media professors

The community of fellow professors who are teaching social media is truly wonderful. It provides a great opportunity for collaboration, brainstorming, and sharing of ideas and exercises. For example, Emily Kinsky wrote about how she set up an exercise for students to live-tweet a class session and the learning benefits this had for the class. Matt Kushin explored an assignment for his class where he had students write BuzzFeed articles for class. Ai Zhang shared on Brian Fanzo’s website how she uses Snapchat for her classes. Each professor has inspired me to try out some of these activities in my own classes with great results.

I share my course plan with social media professionals

My syllabi needs to be updated every time I teach the class, and I work on it at least two months before the start of the semester. Once I have the first draft, I send it out to my network of social media professionals to get their input. I want to know if I’m covering material that’s relevant to the current state of the industry, and if there’s anything else I should be including.

I invite guest speakers to my class

Whether it is in-person or virtually, bringing in professionals to share their stories, expertise, and insights about what is happening in the industry is always helpful and interesting to my students.

What I learned teaching social media in the classroom

When it comes to teaching social media in the classroom, I’ve learned that you can’t try to do everything. It’s important to have a focus—what is the goal of the class, is it an introduction course? Or is it a data and analytics course for students to take after a research methods course?

I’ve also learned how important it is to stay flexible, as social media is always changing. I book at at least two weeks in my syllabus for “Future Developments and Trends,” so I can determine what is new and relevant for my students.

While teaching social media is intense and a lot of work, it’s also one of the most rewarding classes I have taught in my career as a professor. I teach social media for the opportunity to be inspired by my students’ interest. Expertise in social media grows over time. Helping future generation of professionals learn from the current ones is why I love teaching social media.

Do you teach social media at a college or university? Integrate Hootsuite into your classroom with Hootsuite’s Student Program.

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August 12, 2016

Filed under: Social

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Social media may have started out as a fun way to connect with friends, but it has evolved to become a powerful tool for education and business. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter and tools such as Skype are connecting students to learning opportunities in new and exciting ways. Whether you teach an elementary class, a traditional college class, or at an online university, you will find inspirational ways to incorporate social media in your classroom with this list.

Ideas for K-12 Classrooms

Implement these great ideas in your K-12 classroom to have students learning in a dynamic new way.

  1. Make literature real. Have students create a Facebook page for a character from literature you are studying like this class did.
  2. Follow famous people. Many famous people are on Twitter. Have students follow someone related to what you are studying, such as following President Obama when looking at government.
  3. Twitter treasure hunt. Use GPS treasure hunting to send students in search of educational clues as one teacher did. (Skip to number 22 in the slide show.)
  4. Learn probability. This elementary teacher uses Twitter to teach the concept of probability.
  5. Study geography. Use a combination of Twitter and Google Earth to help teach geography-based lessons. This teacher used his network of Twitter followers to create an interactive lesson for his young students. Use her idea to spark your creativity for ways to use these two resources.
  6. Connect with other classrooms. Collaborate with another classroom, no matter where they are in the world, to expand learning opportunities.
  7. Recent public updates. The recent public updates on Twitter shows the most recent posts from all users and is a great tool to use when studying current events.
  8. Field trips. Use Skype to bring the field trip into the classroom when it is difficult or impossible for students to go to the source.
  9. Conference with parents. Stay connected with parents through social media to communicate their child’s progress.

Ideas for College Classrooms

Integrate these suggestions into college classrooms for engaging learning opportunities.

  1. Window to daily life at school. Create a website like the one at University of Chicago Law School. that allows visitors to hear from students and professors about their daily life at law school. This can have applications across a variety of subject areas, from business studies to psychology.
  2. Take a challenge. Look for challenges like this one held by Microsoft and Direct Marketing Educational Foundation.
  3. Create apps. Follow in the footsteps of this class at Stanford and create your own Facebook apps. This exercise would be great for a computer programming class.
  4. Research social media. Social media is a topic itself worth studying. Students are researching and even writing dissertations about social media. Some computer science classes even include course work over social media.
  5. Help in developing countries. Create a project like a joint venture with MIT and a Mexican university, ITESM Zacatecas, that created a Twitter network that has saved small farmers in the area.
  6. Follow mentors. Follow professors, mentors, or other important people in your field of study to find out about their research and professional activities.
  7. Grassroot opportunities. Social media provides opportunities for students to work together on grassroot movements such as the one at the University of British Columbia where students fought to keep the weight room at their aquatic center open.

Ways Students Can Use Social Media

From practicing a foreign language to finding scientific research, these tips will have students using social media to enhance their education.

  1. Find scientific research papers. Check out the Tweprints project that collects abstracts on any scientific paper archived at arXiv.org and mentioned on Twitter.
  2. Tweet famous conversations. Have students tweet imagined conversations between famous literary figures such as Romeo and Juliet, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, or Dante and Beatrice.
  3. Attend lectures remotely. Have students attend a lecture or presentation at another campus via streaming. Campuses often stream lectures in subject areas like accounting and criminal justice.
  4. Practice a language. If students are learning a foreign language, they can practice with native speakers through groups on Facebook or by finding native speakers on Twitter or Skype.
  5. Watch citizen journalism in action. World events unfold immediately on Twitter, so invite students to follow citizen journalism along with the mainstream news.
  6. Track a word or phrase. Track a word or phrase to see how it is being used< by others to learn the nuances of language.
  7. Learn personal responsibility. Students can learn personal responsibility when they find out about how to use social media sites responsibly.

Ways Instructors Can Use Social Media

No matter what level class you teach, there are ways for you as an instructor to use social media for the classroom, your career, and beyond.

  1. Offer a class. Offer a class featuring social media such as this one featuring Twitter.
  2. Collaborate with other professionals. Learn from and share with other instructors around the world by sharing ideas, tips, and techniques through Twitter or Facebook.
  3. Use Twitter to teach journalism. Have students use Twitter to report news in 140 characters or less to practice communicating important information succinctly.
  4. Answer questions. Be available for answering students’ questions via a Facebook page or Twitter feed.
  5. Prospective students. Monitor Twitter or Facebook for specific key words to connect with potential students like how one man did at Queen’s School of Business in Ontario.
  6. Conferences. Find out what’s going on at professional conferences through Twitter.
  7. Have fun at conferences. If you are attending a conference, give BackChatter a try–a game that uses Twitter and makes attendees interactive participants.
  8. Teach Twitter. Teach students how to use Twitter by offering assignments such as this one designed by Barbara Nixon of Georgia Southern University.
  9. Post notes. Post class notes on Twitter so students who missed a class can find out what they missed and instructors can refer back to any notes they left.
  10. Tweet lesson plans. Teachers can tweet their lesson plans, or links to them, to keep students updated and provide inspiration for other educators.
  11. Faculty or staff forum. After you’ve gained experience using social media in the classroom, host a presentation for fellow instructors to share what you have learned.
  12. Live blog. When you use Twitter to live blog a conference or lecture, you provide a transcript for others of what was discussed and keep awesome notes for yourself.
  13. Instant feedback. Have a student tweet about your class to receive instant feedback. This is especially helpful for those teaching a large lecture class.
  14. Take attendance. Have students tweet one thing you discussed in class as a great way of taking attendance.
  15. Test new technology. Recruit help testing new apps or other technology from social media resources.
  16. Recruit guest speakers. Recruit guest speakers for your class from social media contacts such as colleagues or past students.

Communication

Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter offer a great way to enhance communication among students and teachers.

  1. Post homework. Teachers can post homework assignments through Facebook to provide easy access for students and to put the assignment and due date in writing.
  2. Classmate connections. No matter the size of your class, having all the students on a social media outlet brings them all together.
  3. Provide direct communication with instructors. When teachers and students can easily contact each (as through Facebook or Twitter), they create better working relationships.
  4. Send messages and updates. From unexpected absences to reminders of upcoming tests, Facebook and Twitter both offer great ways to stay updated on any occurrences.
  5. Brainstorm. One benefit of social media is the ability to write down thoughts any time they occur. Encouraging students to brainstorm on class topics outside class time provides more opportunities for sharing great thoughts.
  6. Schedule events. Easily schedule events for the entire class using Facebook or by posting on Twitter.
  7. Create groups. You can create groups for entire classes or for smaller subsets such as study groups on Facebook and Twitter.
  8. Help shy students. Shy students who may feel uncomfortable approaching their teacher in person can use social media as a way to communicate.
  9. Share interesting websites. Both students and instructors can share interesting websites related to class topics via social media.
  10. Multimedia. Share multimedia content easily with the entire class on Facebook.
  11. Asynchronous class conversation. When something relevant to class happens during a time when class isn’t in session, students can discuss it through social media.

Class Projects

Assign class projects using social media to have students participate in dynamic learning opportunities.

  1. Share book reviews. Students can post their book reviews for the instructor to grade and other students to read on a class Facebook page, or try tweeting a 140-character book review on Twitter.
  2. Play Knighthood. This Facebook game promotes reading skills and has been used in at least one ESL class.
  3. Poll the class. Use polls as an interactive teaching tool in class using the Poll app for Facebook or PollDaddy for Twitter.
  4. Create a news feed. Have a journalism class report news via Twitter a feed or the Facebook status update.
  5. Follow news stories. Use groups like World News Now on Facebook that provide video clips of world news.
  6. Do community service. If your class is community-minded, organize a community service class project.
  7. Create stories. Have students create a story, one by one, using only one Twitter post of 140 characters or less and one student at a time.
  8. Post student projects. Set up a Facebook page to showcase student projects as Stanford did.
  9. Author visits. Use Skype to set up author visits that allow students to interact with the author.
  10. Interviews. Have students conduct interviews with teachers, school staff, or other students and share the interview via a Skype feed to other classrooms.

Promoting Community and Collaboration

Working together and promoting a sense of community makes for a richer learning environment. Find out ways to do just that with social media.

  1. Promote community. Students sharing personal information through social media create a sense of community , which leads to more open communication and better learning.
  2. Online communities. Social media can connect online communities such as classrooms or teachers’ groups to help create a larger community.
  3. Interpersonal understanding. Getting to know small bits of others over time, as happens through social media, provides a greater picture of who those people are and develops a deeper sense of understanding for more openness and sharing in the classroom.
  4. Use backchannel. “Backchannel” refers to the conversation occurring secondary to the main lecture or presentation via social media. Use backchannel to enhance both teaching and learning.
  5. Blog. Create a community blog and share it on Facebook to tell what your class is learning and doing.
  6. Guest lecturers. Have guest lecturers visit the classroom through Skype if they are located too far away to come in person.
  7. Collaboration. By definition, social media outlets are designed to promote social interchange, so harness that capability to have students work on activities together through social media.
  8. Stay relevant. Schools moving from an old, skill-centered approach to one that embraces connectivity through social media will provide a better learning environment for students.
  9. Collaborate with professionals. Some 7th graders collaborated with the National Museum in Canada via Skype.
  10. Make changes. When a book was not allowed to be taught in one school, students connected with the author of the book and collaborated on how to approach the school board with their case.
  11. Inclusion. Students who may have to be out of the classroom due to special needs or illness can be connected to the class remotely and stay a part of the community.

Social Media Tools for Students

These tools for Twitter and Facebook will provide students even more ways to use social media at school.

  1. TweetDeck. Students can use this tool to help organize their Twitter feeds. It also provides an excellent way to tweet from their iPhones.
  2. Twhirl. Twhirl is another helpful tool for managing Twitter and includes features such as URL shortening and new message notifications.
  3. bit.ly. Posting long links eats up the 140 characters allotted on Twitter, so shorten URLs with this tool.
  4. Tweetree. Twitter can get confusing with several conversations going on at once, so use this tool to group conversations together.
  5. TwitPic. Share photos on Twitter when you use this popular tool.
  6. QuoteURL. If students want to put different tweets all on one page (for summarizing a project, for example), then this is the tool to use.
  7. CiteMe. This Facebook app provides properly formatted citations according to APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA, or Turabian.
  8. Notely. Notely users who are on Facebook can organize assignments, classes, notes, and more with this app.
  9. CourseFeed. Add this app to Facebook to find online classes or follow your current class.
  10. DoResearch4Me. Steer students away from finding information on Wikipedia with this Facebook app that finds information online from other sources.
  11. Hey Math! Challenge. This Facebook app provides Flash movies that clearly explain difficult math concepts.
  12. CampusBuddy. Find students attending your school with this Facebook app.
  13. Flashcards. Use this app to create flashcards on any subject right on Facebook.
  14. Class Notes. Take a photo of teacher’s notes or your own notes and post them so others in your class can see.

Preparing for Employment

Whether students are graduating from college and starting a career or finishing high school and looking for work, these tips offer a great way to find employment through social media.

  1. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of the most popular social media outlets for employment and networking. Even entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki suggests using LinkedIn to let people know you are looking for work.
  2. TweetMyJobs. Use TweetMyJobs, a Twitter tool that connects job seekers and employers.
  3. twitterjobcast. Another Twitter tool to use for job searches is twitterjobcast where you can search for jobs posted on Twitter by keyword or geographic location.
  4. Post your resume. Post your resume on Facebook, LinkedIn, or your personal website.
  5. Establish a positive web presence. Follow these five suggestions to create a professional web presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any social network.
  6. Post about your search. One woman found her job after posting about her search on Twitter. Make sure everyone in your social media network knows you are looking.
  7. Use Facebook job search apps. Many of the major online job search sites have apps on Facebook or a Twitter feed, so use them for finding work.
  8. Follow @jobhunting. This Twitter feed offers plenty of helpful information for those seeking employment.
  9. Understand the importance of social networking. Networking is an incredibly important part of finding a job, especially when you consider that only 5-25% of available jobs are even posted.
  10. Include social media on your resume. Make sure your Facebook page is professional or use a LinkedIn page that has no personal information on it and include it in your resume.
  11. Research your target company or school. Investigate the companies or schools in which you are interested to learn about their culture, hiring practices, see if you know anyone there, and more.
  12. Marketplace. Check out Facebook’s classified section, Marketplace, which has a section where jobs are featured.
  13. Find out who to follow on Twitter. Read 50 People on Twitter Job Seekers Should Follow to find a ton of great Twitter job hunting resources.
  14. Add Professional Profile. Put the Professional Profile app on your Facebook page and you can consolidate all your professional information.
  15. Use Facebook ads. These students used Facebook ads to get the attention of potential employers, so you could too.

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