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TikTok makes moves into education market

Social media giant TikTok is partnering with hundreds of universities, experts and charities to create educational content for the platform. English Heritage, The Prince's Trust and The University of Cambridge are among partners who will produce bespoke content at launch. Other contributors include actors, singers and psychologists, bringing together a wide range of skills. The new focus could appeal to the trend for micro-learning, said one expert.

TikTok has been downloaded more than two billion times on iOS and Android since it was launched globally in 2017. It allows users to make videos up to 15 seconds long, with music in the background. With its success built on user-generated entertainment videos, the move to incorporate professionally produced learning content marks a significant shift, as the company attempts to diversify its content. At launch, videos will include British actor Sean Sagar sharing tips on preparing for auditions, and TV presenter and mathematician Rachel Riley helping to develop maths skills.

Speaking exclusively to BBC Click, Rich Waterworth, TikTok's general manager for Europe, said the platform had noticed users' interest in educational videos, with more than seven billion views of the hashtag #LearnOnTikTok. "Going forward, LearnOnTikTok is about us investing in partners and content creators with a breadth of professional content... We think this is about applying the power of TikTok to learning: the effects, the audio, the transitions, the tools that make it so engaging and fun, to make people enjoy learning."

Disney boss

Martin Jefferies, social media manager at English Heritage, a charity that manages over 400 historical sites in the UK, believes access to TikTok's younger audience provides opportunities to explore different types of content. "We think that TikTok is a safe space to explore stories that matter most to young people, so things like black history, LGBTQ stories from some of our sites, women's history as well - it feels like a very safe, welcoming environment."

With professionally produced videos now being introduced alongside user-generated content, Jamie MacEwan, a research analyst at Enders Analysis, suggests that Disney's former head of streaming taking the helm at TikTok, could signal a new direction for the platform.

"TikTok really wants to broaden its appeal and we are going to see more structured, more premium content going forward. This ties into the new CEO, Kevin Mayer, coming from Disney. We know him as a deal-maker for content and we're sure to see more partnerships going forward." At Disney, Mr Mayer oversaw the successful launch of the firm's streaming service, Disney Plus, in November 2019. It now has more than 50 million subscribers. He was also considered a key figure in the company's acquisitions of Lucasfilm, Pixar and Marvel.

With the app centred around short-form content, Dr Elizabeth Hidson, a senior lecturer in education at the University of Sunderland, points out that the platform will be following an already existing trend in online learning. "Most of us will be familiar with the idea of going online to find instructional videos," she said. "This idea of small units of learning is already well established in online education - we call it micro-learning."