Though the social media platform TikTok is facing increasing scrutiny, new research has found that half of college students use the app to get help with their homework.
The research, from Intelligent.com, found 51 percent of college students surveyed have used TikTok for help with academic work. In addition to turning to TikTok for homework help once they’re in college, 34 percent of students sampled said they used TikTok to help write their college admission essays.
“It’s no surprise that TikTok has grown in popularity among many users, especially Gen Z’ers, due to its wide variety of bite-sized content, entertaining video effects, and cultural trends,” said Blanca Villagomez, college admissions and education advisor for Intelligent.com. “Like any social media platform, TikTok has its fair share of pros and cons if used as an educational tool.”
According to the research, fifty-three percent of college students said they learn ‘somewhat’ (38 percent) or ‘much’ (15 percent) more on TikTok than they do in their classes. Students surveyed said they use TikTok to learn more about math (44 percent), English (41 percent), and art (39 percent).
“In my profession, students often share with me new resources or tools that are improving their study habits, time management, and even productivity all because of TikToks they come across,” Villagomez said. “Nowadays students have a shorter attention span and consuming content that is quick and easy to digest can make learning fun.”
She added, “Plus, TikTok has a diverse community of creators which can expose students to a broader horizon of cultures, worldviews, and experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have access to in their day-to-day physical environments.”
Of the group of students using TikTok for academic help, 58 percent of students prefer using TikTok over other search engines. In terms of whether TikTok can compare to more mainstream search engines in terms of trustworthiness, 82 percent of respondents who prefer to use TikTok said they believe the information they get from TikTok is ‘somewhat’ (65 percent) or ‘very’ (17 percent) trustworthy. While this preference for TikTok may make sense from a convenience perspective, Villagomez raised concerns.
“While TikTok’s content can be educational and informative, there’s also a significant amount of content that is not credible or reliable and can spread misinformation,” said Villagomez. “It’s important that we teach students how to develop a critical eye and seek out reliable sources of information.”
Given the popularity of TikTok, the research suggests that college, universities, and professors need to learn how to incorporate similar videos into their learning.
“Gen Z’ers have embraced technology from a very early age and have an appetite for information that is simplified in a fun and engaging way,” said Villagomez. “In fact, their relationship with apps like TikTok is transforming the educational landscape. Some educators have even started incorporating similar video content apps in their curriculum to engage students.”
“We live in a digital era and there’s a great benefit in staying attuned to how our students learn and stay engaged. Educators can tap into their creativity and explore different types of visual content and activities that promote engagement and learning,” she continued.
However, Villagomez cautions that colleges and universities need to incorporate new technology into the classroom carefully and with a strong understanding of the pros and cons of the technology.
“However, introducing any new technology into the classroom requires due diligence to understand its suitability, limitations, and alignment with the educational goals of the institution. Additionally, it is important that any adaptation to new technology is screened for accessibility, especially for students with disabilities,” she said.