#ClickbaitSyllabus: You won’t believe what this college prof did to engage students. Or what happened next.

Colby College assistant professor Laura Seay does not want us to “take this too seriously.” “I was just goofing around,” she insisted in an interview with The Washington Post. (Seay is a contributor to the Monkey Cage on washingtonpost.com.)

Yet, as anyone who teaches college knows, it’s hard to get the attention of students these days. Indeed, they’ve given up on just “getting their attention.”

Now you have to “engage students,” as Seay said.


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With their eyes permanently fixed on smartphones and their communication skills limited to 140 characters, hashtags, emojis, txtspk, is it any wonder why her course in African government and politics, at first glance, might not immediately crank their engines?

Besides, Seay admits, she was procrastinating. Seay had not finished her syllabus and the students were about to descend on the campus.

Suddenly it occurred to her.


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With time running out Monday, she began, at first tentatively: “Thinking of changing the weekly headings on my syllabi to clickbait. ‘You won’t believe this one thing France & Britain did to Africa!'”

But then, emboldened, she continued.

“15 cat gifs explain why Robert Mugabe is still in power. #ClickbaitSyllabus”

And yes, a hashtag was born.

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“‘These 10 Million People Explain Why Belgian Colonization Was Literally The Worst.’ #ClickbaitSyllabus – Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) September 5, 2016′

Which did not go unnoticed. One tweet:

“Plato: “You’ll never believe what reality is.” Descartes: “How I lost 180lbs just by thinking!” Nietzsche: ‘God is WHAT?’#ClickbaitSyllabus – Nolen Gertz (@ethicistforhire) September 5, 2016 “

And she realized she was on to something: “Holy smokes, we’re a moment. Good job, academia twitter! #ClickbaitSyllabus pic.twitter.com/7jhLo5IhVg”