Adding Social Media to Online Curriculums

How many times have you checked your social media account today? As frequently as we are logging into our virtual accounts, the use of social media will be of more value to online learning environments. “Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks (Choi & Kang).” Universities from around the world and from varying disciplines are attempting to integrate social media with online classrooms. We are at a moment in time where online classrooms are facing a large problem of student isolation, yet large amounts of students have social media accounts that they frequently check. “Social media is one of the most influential communication tools which could be effectively used in the teaching process (Tezer et al.).” Merging these two are the solution that researchers are trying to figure how to best apply for improving the online learning experience.

The reason why I chose to integrate social media into my forum is because I am taking into account the student backgrounds. I predict first year college students are most likely to be more on social media as they are adding more friends to their accounts. My module has to do with food and place. I think students sharing through a specific social media account can allow for exchange of ideas and experiences. It could also allow for an easier and faster peer feedback process. The three social media accounts I will look at are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You’re probable thinking, why Instagram? According to Al-Bahrami et al, from a group of undergraduate students “the five most popular social media platforms are, in order of reported student preference: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google +.” They also had a list of amount of users in each platform, but I chose student preference as priority because engagement is another difficulty online classrooms can face. Yes, there are other platforms, but students might not be as interested to use platforms that aren’t trendy, hence will affect the efficacy of checking the account as frequent as the personal social media account. In the following paragraphs, I will summarize research being done in integrating these platforms into online courses.


The research I gathered reflected data from different countries, yet all agree that Facebook is the number one social media platform with the most amount of users. Findings are of mixed results as researchers try to understand how to best apply social media usage. Estevao Goulart from Brazil examined the relationships built on a face to face classroom and online classroom with a Facebook group. His results were quite interesting (can reflect implications of LMS as well), but the students on Facebook had unilateral relations. For example, peer interactions were just one way so when webbed out there are many perpendicular lines (relations among student dots) that didn’t even intersect, while on face to face classrooms there were many lines going back and forth intersecting between the student dots. Yet, when he webbed out face to face versus Facebook group study communication, Facebook study groups were larger with constant exchange of communication and information. This suggests that Facebook group activities can be effective and interactive in online classrooms. Dyson et al. looked at student understanding and engagement through student questionnaires and concluded “Facebook didn’t yield higher engagement, but those who never checked postings reported lower understanding.” How does the number one social media platform not reveal higher engagement results?

An implication on measuring student engagement which can contribute to the mixed results researchers find could include if the class is a core, elective or required major. Also, if most of the student population work or have extracurricular activities, it can affect login times. “Social media usage depended on class, gender, academic background of parents, socioeconomic status, memberships and tools used to connect (Tezler et al.).” I never questioned the possible difficulty it could be in integrating social media in a course and students not having a cell phone or access or even not having an account.


Mostly when I think of Twitter, I think of being primarily used for peer feedback. However, the following study shows how Twitters use in the online classroom can be used as “providing instruction and for content delivery (Tanner et al.).” The use of Twitter proved successful in teaching college algebra in this study. The teacher would give out her number for students to text pictures when they encountered a problem-solving equation. The problem was that many students were texting the same problems and once helping one, others couldn’t see. Twitter allowed for students to upload pictures of problems and use a hashtag that other students could observe corrected as well. The successfulness of this course was greatly reflected when measuring the significant decrease in the WFD (withdrawal, fail, drop) rate from 32% in previous semesters to 9% in the semester that used Twitter as a means of instruction and delivery.

Twitter has even been found useful in challenging courses, such as nursing. “A North American based study in a health-care education setting found that using Twitter for informal, educationally relevant communications improved contact between instructor and student, promoted active learning, provided an avenue for prompt feedback and maximized time on task (Price et al.).” For the study from Price et al., Twitter was primarily used for nursing students to exchange information within their modules and to increase an awareness of nursing issues.

Twitter has been favored within the learning environment for its “networking, ongoing public dialogues, sense of community, student connectedness, higher GPA’s, developing reflective practices, shifting focus off teacher and onto students, and creating a participatory experience (Munoz et al.).”


Although Instagram is rated high among students, I couldn’t find much research on integrating it online classrooms. Research by Al-Ali (from UAE) proved successful in using Instagram to teach English as a second language. The students were encouraged to post a picture daily reflecting an activity they did and they had to use an English caption and a hashtag for the instructor and other students to find. Issues faced were people having private accounts, some not always including English captions due to it being embarrassing, and it was hard to measure just the Instagram usefulness because Wikis were also used. Other than that, 100% of the students who gave feedback enjoyed the integration of Instagram in the online classroom.
I also found links (not research articles) of multimedia classes that have successfully used Instagram successfully in presenting photography and short film videos.


“Social media is not a trend, but a habit in peoples lives with strong impacts on education and culture (Estevao Goulart).” It shouldn’t replace learning management systems, but can be added to them to reduce problems of students feeling isolated. There are still problems in trying to figure out how to incorporate social media, since there are many mixed results and findings. Students report that there are downsides to incorporating social media including breaching confidentiality and the lead it could cause to be a distraction (Price et al.).

Out of all the research I found on the top 3 social media platforms, I have decided that Twitter is the best use for my module. It allows for privacy and an ease for students to continue staying in touch long after the course is over. The course would have a specific hashtag and requirements would be for students to follow each other for the duration of the course. Through trials of professors and researchers, the accumulation of knowledge exchanged will improve the views on how specifically to best integrate social media to online courses. Hopefully, a LMS and a major social media platform contribute and make a new LMS that integrates social media accounts without having students to make a new account. Merging together will create a new ultimate learning experience as numbers of students enrolled in online courses continue to rise.



Abdullah, A., Patel, D., & Sheridan, B. (2015). Engaging students using social media: The students perspective. International Review of Economics Education 19, 36-50.

Al-Ali, S. (2014). Embracing the selfie craze: Exploring the possible use of Instagram as a language learning tool. Issues and Trends in Educational Technology, 2(2). University of Arizona Libraries.

Choi, J. & Kang, W. (2014). A dynamic examination of motives for using social media and social media usage among undergraduate students: A latent class analysis. Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences 131, 202-210.

Dyson,  B., Vickers, K., Turtle, J., Cowan, S., & Tassone, A. (2015). Evaluating the use of Facebook to increase student engagement and understanding in lecture-based classes. Higher Education, 69(2), 303-313.

Estevao Goulart, E. (2017). Cultural and educational aspects of using social media: A study with undergraduate students. Estudios Sobre Las Culturas Contemporaneas, 2327-40.

Tanner, L., Hartsell, R., & Starrett, A. (2013). Tweeting or instructing: Using Twitter as a pedagogical tool in college algebbra. Currents in Teaching & Learning, 6(1), 30-39.

Tezer, M., Taspolat, A., Kaya, O. S., & Sapanca, H. F. (2017). The impact of using social media on academic achievement and attitudes of prospective teachers. International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, Engineering & Education, 5(2), 75-82. doi:10.5937/IJCRSEE1702075T.

Munoz, L., Pellegrini-Lafont, C., & Cramer, E. (2014). Using social media in teacher preparation programs: Twitter as a means to create social presence. Perspectives on Urban Education 11(2), 57-69.

Price, A., Devis, K., Gayle, L., Crouch, S., South, N., & Hossain, R. (2018). First year nursing students use of social media within education: Results of a survey. Nurse Education Today 61, 70-76.