The TikTok Professor: How to Use TikTok to Build Community and Connect with Students

Concurrent Session 3 & 4 (combined)

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Brief Abstract

A university professor with over 50,000 followers on TikTok will provide a crash course on how to use TikTok to connect with students and build community. The first part of the workshop will cover basic information on the benefits of TikTok, how the app itself works, and how participants can use TikTok to create meaningful asynchronous engagement with students. The second half is experiential and will guide participants through brainstorming and designing their own TikToks.


Dr. Brenner is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Colorado State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and Graduate Certificate in Quantitative Psychology from Iowa State University in 2018, and her B.S. in Psychology (High Honors) from University of Florida. Her research focuses on stigma, self compassion, and identity. Dr. Brenner has over 50,000 followers on her academia-themed TikTok page.

Extended Abstract

TikTok is a social media app that has experienced rapid growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty million people use TikTok daily in the United States alone (Sherman, 2020). Moreover, unlike other social media apps, the TikTok algorithm gives new creators equal opportunity as existing creators to go viral and be seen by new potential followers with every post. As such, there is potential for educators to acquire a following and reach student viewers a massive scale. Moreover, educators can use TikTok for a variety of purposes—to connect with students, build community, humanize educators, educate students on specific topics (e.g., a course topic) and/or broader areas (e.g., how to study effectively), empower students from marginalized backgrounds to feel a greater sense of belonging within education—and more. Therefore, this workshop by an Assistant Professor of Psychology who built a TikTok following of over 50,000 in less than one year will cover how instructors can use TikTok to connect with students and build community on the platform as well as how to bring those videos (i.e., TikToks) into the classroom. The first part of this workshop will provide an overview of the app itself: How the TikTok app works, what are TikTok trends and how to use them, how to increase outreach and potential for videos to go viral, video potential for virality. This will include presenting direct examples of existing TikToks, trends on the platform, and how to use them. The second half of the workshop will focus on helping you, the participant, explore how you might want to use the app as an educator, as well as brainstorm and design TikToks if you were to give the app a try. This workshop will take an experiential approach where the user gets to experience TikTok as a content consumer and content creator. Taken together, participants will leave with a greater understanding of one of the most highly used social media platforms by their students and how to create their own TikToks to connect with students, build community, and enhance students’ educational experience.