As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Have any UNL professors utilized TikTok?”

Trendy dances, creative recipes and funny skits have flooded phone screens across the world since the boom of TikTok a few years ago. But can this entertainment app, used for fun, creativity and leisure, also be used for educational purposes?

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, some professors have taken on the challenge and integrated TikTok into their classrooms.

Kelli Britten, a professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, uses TikTok for both instructional purposes and for a project in her course, Principles of Mass Media. 

“Oftentimes I’ll use TikTok for examples,” Britten said. “I’ll show videos in class that are relevant to the content type, and then I have actual industry exercise assignments, which are ways to take the learning from the readings and lectures and apply it to something that you might do in a job.”

Since most of Britten’s students are students of the College of Journalism and Mass Communication, it’s expected that using social media apps like TikTok will be part of their careers one day, she said. This makes Britten’s TikTok assignment about brands and advertising especially relevant and educational for her students. 

“They have to pick a brand and create two different TikTok videos,” Britten said. “They make one video for the brand itself that would play on its own channel, then they identify an influencer and how they would reach those same objectives to promote the brand through a different avenue of influencer marketing. It tends to be their favorite industry exercise.”

On top of understanding how to make a TikTok video and having a grasp of the marketing aspect of the app, Britten’s students are also challenged to make use of the app’s analytics. Britten said the students have to post their videos on the class page and students whose videos get the most likes or views, get extra credit as encouragement for high-quality work.

“It’s encouraging them to think holistically, about not just making something for an assignment, but giving them the extra incentive to make something that’s quality and relevant to people on TikTok,” Britten said.

For subjects other than those in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Rosalind Kichler, a graduate student studying sociology, also uses TikTok for a project in her class, Introduction to Women and Gender Studies. For the final creative media project, Kichler’s students are asked to respond to the prompt: “One thing people should know about women and gender studies is…” through any creative means, one of them being TikTok.

According to Kichler, creating TikToks has the potential to challenge students in multiple areas of study due to its various creative aspects. 

“I think for students it’s great, because it combines conveying factual information with a creative medium that gets that information across even better,” Kichler said.

Regardless of whether or not professors utilize Tiktok for instruction or projects in class, Kichler said all professors should have some understanding of the trendy app.

“A professor should have some familiarity with it because it’s important to students,” Kichler said. “When I ask them to bring up examples in class, a lot of them tell me about things that they’ve seen on TikTok. Whether you want to use it for assignments or not, I think having some sort of TikTok literacy really is helpful to professors in terms of being able to understand what students’ worlds look like right now.”