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From A Hashtag to a Course

Interview with Leila Khauli Hanna, a pioneer in social media adoption in the Lebanese classroom

Leila Khauli Hanna is a full time Instructor of Marketing Management at AUB’s Sulaiman S. Olayan School of Business since the year 2000.  She holds a Masters of Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing and Econometrics from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Ms. Hanna has taught courses at the Undergraduate and Graduate level in the fields of Marketing and Economics in the US, Lebanon, and France.  She has introduced and coordinated several highly specialized and cutting edge courses at the school and was nominated three times for the teaching excellence award at AUB. Her research interest lies in the Creative Industry of Lebanon and the Digital Transformation of businesses in the region. 

Ms. Hanna was the first to introduce full-fledged social media integration into her courses in Lebanon. Her students use these tools to communicate with her and each other, to stay up-to-date on topics related to the course work and discuss the class online. You can follow her marketing communications course and social media course on Twitter on #mktg225 and #mentoringSM respectively.

Q: How do you integrate social media in your courses and how effective is it?
A: I found that integrating social media into my courses is a very effective communication tool especially that it is very accessible. In my opinion, it is way better to embrace technology and make use of it rather than fight it especially since millennials spend hours online and check their smartphones several times per hour, even when they are accomplishing other tasks.  Using Analytics from social media platforms allows me to track what the students are reading, when is the best time to post an article for them to read, etc.. More importantly, students read more and perform better on assignments and exams. They are definitely more engaged in the course.

Q: Why did you feel the need for social media when there are other online platforms such as Moodle to interact with the students?
A: I use both. Moodle is an excellent closed forum that I use as the formal platform to archive, store, grade, give exams and evaluate. The social media platforms are a good place to communicate efficiently and to curate articles for students to read in real time. So Moodle is the storing location in a way, while the social media platforms are the "live" communication tools.

Q: Did you face any difficulty convincing students or administration of your teaching method?
Not at all, my convener and dean encouraged me and my colleague Dr. Nelson King when we first introduced the idea of a course on Social Media in Business and saw the potential.  Eventually we moved from a course hashtag #mktg225, which was originally part of the marketing communications course, to a full-fledged course on Social Media in Digital Business: #mktg227. We were among the first to offer such a course in the region. I have over 2100 followers and counting. My followers include students, ex-students and other stakeholders such as ad agencies and companies that comment and follow the course closely.
They are hiring my students immediately and we are showcasing the students work in to brand the students’ work online. At the beginning the students resisted having twitter accounts; they did not know what it was all about, but now they come to the course with their own accounts.

Q: Do you think the education field is behind in social media integration in Lebanon and across the globe?
A: In Lebanon, all the fields are behind in social media, not just education, due to the lack of know-how, the weak infrastructure and the high cost of Internet in Lebanon.

Q: What are the best social media tools for teachers?
A: All platforms can be used for a specific objective. Having a presence online as an educator requires a strategy too. Each platform has its own content and specific objectives. I particularly like Learnist: it is a platform designed specifically for educators. You can check the course’s Learnist here:

Q: How do you maintain a professional presence with your students when, in social media, professional and personal lines are blurred?
A: I am only present online as an educator. I limit my personal presence to Facebook only since I had it before I started using the platforms for teaching. I am very careful in sticking to my objectives; I am online to engage my students and enhance the learning process. I never follow my current students or befriend them online. I respect their privacy and only follow them once they graduate and they contact me.

Q: How do you keep up with the constant change in social media?
A: I am passionate and interested in reading and finding out all about it. This learning experience combines my two passions communication and teaching...

Q: What are the pros and cons for integrating social media tools into the class room?
A: Using social media tools in education is very time-consuming and requires constant monitoring. Teachers need to make the commitment and stick to it for optimal results. But it is worth it; you remain relevant to the students and it is a continuous learning experience for all of us.

Q: Do you think this method would also work for school students?
A: Of course it would. However, the educator/teacher should have a clear strategy of how it will be used and to set guidelines. I am very careful and strict about how the students use the course hashtags and what they post. For example, they cannot bash anyone or criticize (for the sake of criticism) any of the brands that we are discussing or covering in the course or any brand for that matter.

Q: What advice would you give to teachers who want to take this step but are afraid to do so?
My advice would be not to be afraid but to have the passion and the commitment.

This article was written for Cloud961 magazine's Social Media & Education issue. You can download it here.