Should university lecturers use emojis in class? 👩‍🏫
Using emojis in higher education may be controversial, but a study suggests it may have its benefits. Source: Shutterstock

In today’s digital age, emojis serve as a powerful communication tool that can drive a certain message. They can convey warmth and friendliness when used correctly in daily communication, and according to one study, even improve engagement on social media.

In 2016, The Times reported that a judge in the UK had used a ‘smiley’ emoji to explain court evidence to two children.

In the realm of education, some school teachers are already using emojis in the classroom to facilitate students’ learning about Shakespeare. But should university lecturers emulate this practice in higher education settings?

According to one study published in the Journal of Studies in Higher Education, the answer is ‘yes’.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that educators who use emoticons are perceived as warmer and deemed to have more of a positive influence on students.

Speaking to tes, researcher Ben Marder said the findings applied to schoolteachers and university lecturers.

“Teachers now are communicating through technology with a different breed of students: highly tech-savvy, digital natives who are fluent in online messaging,” said Dr Marder, a social media expert and senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh business school.

“For these students, the use of emoji, such as the smiley, is second nature as a means to communicate emotion in their instant messages and emails with their peers and likely family.”

While educators are encouraged to smile when speaking to their students, Dr Marder said they should also ‘smile’ at them through emails.

“In a world of social media, the norm of computer-mediated communication has shifted to become more social, adapting to this norm is necessary for teachers wishing to build stronger relationships with their students,” he said.

While critics may see it as unprofessional, Dr Marder stressed that the use of emojis has already become commonplace in other professional contexts, such as politics and branding, adding that education should follow suit.

Dr Marder explained: “Essentially, when communicating with students who are digital natives we as staff need to communicate in a manner that they are familiar with to build a healthy relationship.

“Our research finds that the use of smileys in emails and assessment feedback increases perceptions of the sender, course evaluations and the likelihood that students will act favourably when asked to carry out a task.”

So, do you think lecturers consider using emojis in the classroom?

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