Instagram in the College Classroom?

Instagram is a very popular, visually-driven social media platform. For the optimum socially-constructive experience on Instagram, users must be on a smartphone and working within the Instagram app. In the past, Instagram users could not post unless they were on their phone, using the app. Recent changes allow access to Instagram on mobile phone or tablet through the mobile site, though all of its features are not available as they are on the app (like some video sharing and messaging options) (Valente, 2017). Instagrammers using a laptop or desktop cannot access the mobile site without a third part app, so using the platform on a personal computer is a decidedly cumbersome process (Hall, 2017).

Opening an Instagram account and creating a profile is simple—requiring registration with name, username and password, and an email address, phone number, or FaceBook account. Recently, users have been allowed to manage up to 5 instagram accounts under the same login, but each one must have its own email address (Carey, 2017). Users interact by posting images or video to their profile feed, creating a stream of these posts with text and—for many—deliberately curating particular content. Instagram can be searched by username or hashtag to view the feeds of other Instagram users or collective feeds, by topic. Networks are created when users follow other users, and accounts which are followed then become part of the user’s home feed.

Unfortunately, privacy can be an issue on Instagram. According to Instagram, “there’s no way to hide your bio or profile image on Instagram. If you don’t want people to see this info, we’d suggest removing it from your profile” (Instagram Help Center, 2017). “By default, anyone can view your profile and posts on Instagram. You can make your posts private so that only followers you approve can see them,” but making posts private certainly limits the networking aspect of the platform because “if your posts are set to private, only your approved followers will see them [and]…if your account is set to private and you add a hashtag to your post, the post won’t appear publicly on the corresponding hashtag page. Only your approved followers will be able to see your posts on hashtag pages or in Instagram Direct messages” (Instagram Help Center, 2017).

Communicating through Instagram is getting easier than it used to be. Now, Instagram Direct lets you send messages to one or more other account holders. You can send photos or videos from your library, posts that are in your feed, other user profiles, text, hashtags, and locations (Instagram Help Center, 2017). Sharing posts is an important method of communication with Instagram and beyond Instagram Direct, the app allows you to link your account to FaceBook to share posts directly with your Facebook connections. You can also link to photos and videos that have been shared publicly, by copying and pasting the URL . Instagram URLs can be shared like any other URL—on social networks, via email, etc. However “if an account is set to private, you won’t be able to copy a link to any of their posts” (Instagram Help Center, 2017).

Privacy and ownership of content can be compromised when users download images and video from Instagram. Images and video from feeds can be downloaded to a variety of devices. There are third party apps that allow Instagram stories (temporarily posted videos) and entire Instagram feeds to be downloaded (Edsall, 2017; Med Anis, 2016). Instagram offers a better way to archive other users’ posts: users can bookmark and save posts to their own collections. Users who want to promote and share their live feed can embed code into their websites, which is often used as a marketing tool for businesses or individuals. Unfortunately, anyone can embed any public feed onto a website, which could result in a tremendous breach of content ownership (“Can I display”, 2016).

There are many applications for Instagram in higher education instruction. Business and marketing students can use Instagram to develop branding and marketing campaigns and to analyze the market. Classes from any discipline could be asked to follow leaders in the field of study or hashtags that explore the subject matter at hand. In addition, students who produce visual media, such as visual artists (film/video/digital, graphic design, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture) as well as those in interior design, architect engineering, landscape architecture, and industrial and product design can create and share portfolios or share the story of producing a particular piece of work, over time. Students in writing classes may be tasked to create visual stories or post a series of images to accompany micro-writing (via posts). Students in social work, counseling, or education can participate in digital storytelling about issues, practices, people groups, and individuals, as well. Class projects might include collective storytelling, having students to post to Instagram to recap a class session or to review for a test. Students can create the visual equivalent to an expository composition (showing and telling how to do something), or collect images to demonstrate a particular principle (for example: gothic architecture, the photographic rule of threes, proper ergonomics at work, etc.). These sorts of learning activities tap into both constructivist and social construction learning, are more learner-centered, are popular among university level students, and allow for tremendous creativity (DeCoster & Naatus, 2017, p. 84).

There are some limitations to using Instagram in the classroom. In m-learning, the medium should complement the learning activity, but text-heavy content or assignments (like this threaded discussion question) would not lend themselves to this type of platform (Drennen, 2017, p. 238). In addition, students who do not want to be on Instagram or who want their accounts to be private would not be able to participate (p. 240). In marketing, storytelling, or curating, creativity is tested, but critical thinking may not be stressed. In addition, with these types of assignments, student learning assessment would be very subjective. As previously mentioned, encroachments on intellectual property rights and inability to protect privacy would be major constraints to implementing learning activities using Instagram (p. 240). So, while Instagram shows much promise as an adjunct to augment learning, it must be used judiciously.

Here are some links that you might find useful:

A very current article on how to get started on Instagram (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Great ways for students to use instagram: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

How faculty can protect privacy and intellectual property: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

These K-12 suggestions would also work in the college classroom: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Can I display photos from someone else’s Instagram account. (2016, June 01). Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Carey, C. (2017, August 30). How to Make a Second Instagram (or Create Multiple Accounts!). Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

DeCoster, D., & Naatus, M.K. (2017). Experiential learning in digital marketing: a library social media takeover
. Business Education Innovation Journal, 9(1), 84-88.

Drennan, V. P. (2017). Social Media and Instructional Design. In Reiser & Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (pp.237-243). New York, NY: Pearson.

Edsall, N. (2017, September 08). How to save someone’s Instagram Story to your phone. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Hall, Z. (2017, May 08). Instagram now lets you post photos from its mobile site including iPad. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Huff, D. (2017). Telling the Story of America: Digital Storytelling Projects in American Literature. English Journal,106(3), 32. Retrieved from Questia.

Instagram Help Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

[Med Anis] (2016, April 08). Download all Instagram photos from any user 1 Click. [Video File]. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Valente, D. (2017, June 06). You Can Use Instagram Without The App, So Don’t Worry About Data Anymore. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.