How TikTok Became An Educational Tool

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TikTok, the popular video-sharing social media platform that has taken Gen-Z by storm, has cemented itself as the app du jour, making its trendy ancestors, Snapchat, Instagram, and especially Facebook, effectively obsolete. 

The social networking platform is a Chinese-owned video-sharing site that initially gained popularity through its users sharing 15-second videos of dancing and lip-syncing to popular music. Its reputation has been notably scrutinized by older generations (including millennials) who simply don’t understand it’s mass appeal. 

And while indeed, much of TikTok content is still derived from catchy songs and viral dance videos, (see: “Toosie Slide” and “Savage”), many of its users have started to head to TikTok for an entirely different purpose: to learn. 

Yeah, you read that right. TikTok users have increasingly turned to the platform to experience what experts are calling “micro-learning” — small bites of easily digestible and fast-paced educational videos that can range from teaching viewers a useful life skill to informing them of little-known facts. 

The omnipresence of TikTok micro-learning was expedited by the effects of COVID-19 on TikTok’s audience–namely forcing them into their homes and in front of their screens. Shortly after, users began to group educational videos under the hashtag  #LearnOnTikTok, and the popularity of micro-learning videos soon took off.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen views for videos with the #LearnOnTikTok get over 7 billion views for just over a million videos,” TikTok’s general manager for Europe, Rich Waterworth, told Digiday in June. 

TikTok users have created viral educational videos about everything from cooking to chemistry, from art to skincare, from fashion-tips to under-recorded history. Because of its format, micro-learning has become especially appealing to Gen Zers a generation also affectionately known as the “iPhone generation” due to being the first generation of kids who have no memory of what life was like before the internet. 

Another thing that makes #LearnOnTikTok so compelling is how users can cater their learning to their individual interests. 

TikTok’s algorithm is so fine-tuned that it can cater to your feed with videos similar to those you’ve shown interest in before. This is especially appealing to the activism-engaged generation of youngsters who love to educate themselves about marginalized communities, whether those be BIPOC, queer, or Latinx, or an intersection of all of those above. 

“TikTok is a safe space to explore stories that matter most to young people,” says social media manager Martin Jefferies of English Heritage. “So things like black history, LGBTQ stories from some of our sites, women’s history as well it feels like a very safe, welcoming environment.”

Not the type to pass up a trend without profiting off of it, TikTok has quickly taken advantage of #LearnOnTikTok by launching a formal campaign in which they recruited celebrities and professional educators to produce content for the platform that has long relied on user-generated content. 

TikTok has recently announced that they were collaborating with household names like Bill Nye, Lilly Singh, and Neil Degrasse Tyson to help provide “premium” educational content to their young, hungry audience. 

While some digital experts are calling TikTok’s change in content strategy a “shift towards maturity,” we can’t help but disagree with them. We think that by prioritizing education, TikTok is serving their young audience more than ever.