Timothy Su, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, had been enjoying watching science videos on TikTok, a relatively new social media platform that is popular among Gen Z. That is when he got the idea to incorporate the new teen obsession into his classroom. He told his General Chemistry class, sized about 300 students, that he would give them extra credit if they created videos explaining general chemistry concepts using TikTok. About 65% of his students participated, far beyond Su’s expectation.
Su said that UC Riverside students come from various backgrounds. “I was hoping that the enthusiasm for science would go viral [in students’ communities],” Su said to me in an interview. Even though he was not expecting the videos themselves to go viral, to his and students’ surprise, some of the videos did very well in terms of popularity; as of this writing, the most liked video made by his students gained upwards of 49,000 likes on the platform.
Su is hoping to expand this practice to the other courses he will teach. “18-year-olds are brilliant in ways that I'm not,” Su said. “How people engage with learning is changing rapidly, so it’s good to be open-minded and communicate with students in their terms.”
Below are three of the most popular videos that Su’s students made. You can find more of these videos here.