Snapchat in Online Courses for greater communication.
Using Snapchat in Online Courses for Greater Communication.

As part of the Online Learning Consortium’s 2015 International Conference (#OLC15), Melissa Venable and I gave a presentation with the same title as this blog post.  Dr. Venable has already written about Snapchat at

If you’re not aware of Snapchat and you’re in higher ed, then you’ve not been paying attention.  With more than four billion views daily and with a user group firmly planted under the age of 35,the group using this social media app the most is predominantly college-aged students.  They’re doing so because it’s an effective communication tool.

One can send a highly personalized message by recording a short video clip of themselves with a single button press rather than a text message. Comparably, sending a text message is laborious.  With a ten-second duration, one must focus their thoughts and words for maximum communication (similar to Twitter’s 140 character cap).  However, unlike most social media sites, with use of Snapchat in online courses, one can portray facial expressions and vocal intonation rather than solely through grammar.


Snapchat in Online Courses

There are some really good reasons to consider using Snapchat in online courses as a communications tool.  Here are a few:

  1. Online students crave contact.  Many online students would love to have more one-on-one contact with their instructors.  Demystify yourself from being Oz-like to displaying the kindly person who desires to help.
  2. Uncomplicated use.  When communicating through the LMS with a discussion forum, there’s a significant procedure through which one must navigate.  Logins, multiple clicks, etc.  Communicating via Snapchat is straightforward.  Since it is only available through the mobile app, you need only to open the app and hit the record button (Snapchat opens to the recording screen.)
  3. Control of emotional experience.  Like email, regardless of flawlessly commandeered grammar, the discussion forum is prone to being read through the eyes of the reader as tinted or jaded by his/her day.  (Good day, happy inflection applied to the reading, etc.)  Unlike text-based communique, the user of Snapchat can control the demeanor displayed in the communication.
  4. Use what the students use.  The teachers that I remember best were those that came to me and integrated my world into my learning.  With a large percentage of college-aged students using Snapchat, its use is definitely reaching out to communicate with them.

Just as there were some good reasons to use Snapchat, there are good reasons to avoid its use, as well.  Here are a few:

  1. Logs are not easily accessible.  It’s clear that Snapchat actually does keep old snaps (hence the “leaked snaps”) but I’m not aware of a way to easily access your communication logs.  Logs are the reason we use the LMS–everything is secure and recorded.  Your HR department foresees (and has nightmares about) student allegations of professoral impropriety directed at students and student impropriety directed at professors.   With no logs, schools may lose out by choosing a better public image than being correct.  Waiting for a better tool might be wise.
  2. Snaps have a limited number of viewings.  Conveying a very important piece of information should only be done with tools through which the recipient can repeatedly process that information.
  3. Snapchat may not work well for you.  Frankly put, there are some cases where the full expression of your persona is undesirable.  If your dry wit is often ill-received or you regularly are perceived as being unhappy (even when you’re not) perhaps you should reconsider using a medium where every nuance is transmitted.  Or, perhaps, you’re just having a bad day.  These are not times to use Snapchat.

I think we can all see that there are definite pros/cons to using Snapchat.  But, I think we can all agree that Snapchat has hit on something that is a game changer for communication.



The presentation that Dr. Venable and I gave is presented below.  We had a crowd of around thirty people who asked interesting questions and who were generally intrigued with Snapchat’s use.

(Other presentations of mine are available at


Snapchat is an amazing tool.  Since everyone is packing around high-quality cameras (some taking video at 4k now), with microphones having almost professional quality, integrating highly dynamic tools into our courses seems wise.  This raises the quality and interaction of our courses while also revealing more of ourselves to our students.

What are some tools that might be better than Snapchat?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!


Snapchat in Online Courses for Greater Communication

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