Going viral on TikTok can give students an A in these college courses

Going viral on TikTok can give students an A in these college courses

Going viral on TikTok can give students an A in these college courses

It looked like a typical first day of class.

In January, Matthew Prince, a public relations executive at Taco Bell who teaches at Chapman University in Southern California, told 80 students what to expect from his influencer marketing course as he walked them through through the program projected on a screen at the front of the conference room.

This semester, he said, things would be a little different: If someone in the class could create a TikTok video that received a million views before him, the final exam would be waived.

His words caught the attention of Sylvie Bastardo, a 20-year-old sophomore who was sitting at the back of the room. She took out her iPhone and started filming.

First she zoomed in on the screen. Beneath the words “TikTok Influencer Challenge” it read: “First to reach viral status wins. (Me against the whole class.) If you win, the final is cancelled. After capturing this explanation of the challenge, she cut to a classmate who had a surprised look on her face.

The next morning, Ms. Bastardo selected a song to use as the soundtrack for the six-second clip, a catchy song about a bad hair day that had started gaining traction on TikTok. Ms Bastardo said she was a savvy enough TikTok user to know that a trending audio track can help boost viewership.

After adding the song to what she had filmed in class, she posted the video along with a simple caption: “My teacher said if our class got a 1 million likes TikTok he would cancel the final! Please like!!!”

Reaching a million likes wasn’t technically the mission. In his explanation of the challenge, Mr Prince had asked for a million views. In an interview, Ms Bastardo said it was difficult to hear exactly what the professor was saying in the lecture hall once he issued the challenge. But she figured an influx of likes would appeal to the app’s algorithm and help her video take off.

“It’s easier to get views than likes,” she said.

The view counter started to rise as comments poured in from people cheering him on. There were also many detractors. “I’ve had people say, ‘Oh, I don’t like it, because you should make it through a final. I hope none of you become doctors or medical students,’” said Ms. Bastardo But even the backlash has helped her project, since TikTok’s algorithm is powered, at least in part, by comments.

A day after posting the video, Ms. Bastardo saw that she had achieved her goal.

“My mom was like, ‘You gotta email him,’” she said.

But instead of immediately sending a note to her teacher, Ms. Bastardo took a nap, she said. When she woke up she saw that Mr Prince had already ‘dueted’ her video – meaning he had recorded a new video which he had posted alongside hers.

At the start of the next class, he brought her to the amphitheater and announced that the final was cancelled. Ms. Bastardo bowed as the other students clapped.

Mr Prince asked if anyone else had tried to make a viral video. No one raised their hand.

To date, Ms. Bastardo’s video has been viewed over five million times. She also made a follow-up video to her success, a clip that itself has been viewed over a million times. “MVP,” Mr. Prince wrote in the comments.

Comments on the challenge were mostly positive, Mr Prince said, apart from one opponent who appeared in a Facebook chat group for social media teachers.

“A gentleman who was in the education system for a very long time was basically downplaying the role of influencers and this study,” said Mr Prince, who is a member of the group. “‘So you’re asking to play on social media instead of, like, hard-hitting test?’”

Mr. Prince, who is the director of marketing communications and public relations at Taco Bell, said he wants his students to learn first-hand about the possibilities of social media.

“I was just trying to think of new ways to help support some of the teaching that I’m trying to impart over the semester,” he said. “Primarily the idea of ​​democratizing virality and influence in social media, especially on TikTok, and you really don’t have to be a celebrity to drive it.”

In Ms. Bastardo’s opinion, Mr. Prince had never really intended to skip the final. “He didn’t think anyone would do it or it would be possible,” she said.

Mr. Prince, an adjunct professor at Chapman, isn’t the only pedagogue trying to incorporate social media into lesson plans. Duke University offers a course that teaches students how to build their personal brand online. At Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, Marina Cooley, an assistant professor of marketing practice, created a TikTok account for her class last semester.

She divided the 65 students into groups and asked them to post a TikTok that would count for 20% of their final grade. A video that got 25,000 views would be worth an A, the professor and her students decided.

The first class video to pass the milestone showed campus scenes edited together. He referred to Emory as the “Harvard of the South,” a kind of nickname that tends to piss off fans and critics of the university.

An even more successful bid for virality topped the three million mark. In the video, 22-year-old senior Margaret Chang ranked the six college majors who make the worst daters while lip-synching to an audio clip from the reality show “Dance Moms.” (“Finance bros” took the top spot.)

Ms Chang said she was surprised when she realized the course would require her to create social media content rather than just studying it. “Mostly because it was essentially the equivalent of a final exam or final project in terms of grading,” she added.

Much like Ms. Bastardo’s clip, Ms. Chang’s video wasn’t brilliantly produced. Short and simple, it showed her wearing earmuffs and sunglasses during her presentation. “Audiences, especially my generation, Gen Z, I think we’re just very tired of the artifice of it all, like the embellishment of highly organized media,” Ms Chang said.

Despite her nerves at the idea of ​​“being perceived by thousands of people on the Internet”, she said she was happy to have participated.

“As someone who’s on the internet, you can’t really escape influencer marketing, period,” continued Ms. Chang, who plans to pursue her law degree. “I am interested in intellectual property, business and corporate law. Maybe that will end up playing a role in my career.

Ms Cooley said her marketing course has become known as the “TikTok class” on campus. This week, students will register for the upcoming semester. The school doubles the size of the classes.


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