When the COVID 19 pandemic stalled in-person classes in 2020 and students were forced to adjust to remote instruction and course work, professors also had to adjust by being responsive to the virtual world and implementing virtual assignments. For some, that innovation led to assignments that became part of the ongoing curriculum. 

Chicano and Latin American Studies professor Dr. Luis Fernando Macias replaced in-person presentations with coursework that integrated the use of social media while students synthesized the material they learned to show they understood it.

For one assignment Macias created, students had to watch a documentary or listen to a podcast for “CLAS 3: an Introduction to Chicano/Latino Studies,” then make a one- to three-minute video highlighting the main points of the assignment. 

“What I have found is that students are absolutely creative, they’re absolutely engaged when they are given the opportunity to try something new,” Macias said.

He expected students to have fun and demonstrate their content knowledge but it was also a way for him to get to know his students, a difficult task during a virtual class where students can choose to have their cameras and microphones off. 

Many students said the opportunity to incorporate social media into their assignments piqued their interest.

“With our generation mainly revolving around technology and mostly getting their news from social media through tweets, reposts or other people’s posts, an assignment like the one I did in Dr. Macias’s course can be very beneficial to a larger audience,” said Fresno State student Danna Martinez.

Macias said these types of assignments have the most potential to help students demonstrate their content knowledge and synthesize material in a way that is engaging while demonstrating what they do in an ethnic studies class. 

“They connect all sorts of different disciplines and understand history, understand policy and understand culture through more than one lens,” Macias said.

Students used social media platforms such as TikTok to explain their understanding of historic events such as the UFW movement, the 1980s Sanctuary Movement, migrant education and high school walkouts.

Students shot videos in their bedroom, in their backyards or outside in agriculture fields – depending on the topic – and got hundreds of views.

“I’m reminded of just how brilliant and creative our students are, and if you facilitate the assignment to have fun and to have a connection with their lives, then nothing but good things happen,” Macias said.

Martinez said the assignment gave her a different experience in which she was left with a sense of comfort for being able to teach others a little about Chicano and Latin American historical events through the use of social media.