The Future of Education is… TikTok?!

Now, you might have a highly negative view on TikTok. You will change your mind by the end of this article. Turns out, TikTok can be quite useful.

Dasha Nikolaeva
12 min readJan 21, 2021

In the following article, I will be reviewing the potential usage of the TikTok-styled technology in micro-learning(further on that). I will cover the history of TikTok, how it works, and — more importantly — why this is the next big thing in education. I’ve talked to the founder of the TikTok-format educational app, stay tuned.

The game plan:

  1. What is TikTok and where it’s headed?
  2. Why is TikTok-style an exceptional format for online education? Concepts of micro-learning, social learning, and adaptive learning.
  3. Is TikTok better than YouTube? Comparing TikTok with YouTube and Quibi. What was Quibi about? The battle of generations.
  4. The most important thing for a video app.
  5. The struggles of TikTok.
  6. Educational TikTok(s). Interview with Yuri, CEO of Edudo
  7. What to expect next? Is this the end of education as we know it? The end of EdX and Coursera.
  8. Resources, a lot of resources — as always, all links at the very end of an article. I don’t want you to get distracted while reading so there are no links in between.

But first, what is TikTok?

YouTube, just with short videos

TikTok is a social network that allows users to share short videos with music/sounds in the background. The videos are usually just 3 seconds to 1,5 minutes long. It’s fun, it’s easy-to-use, and it’s engaging.

Launched in 2016, and in 2 years it becomes one of the biggest hits on AppStore and Google Play. Now it’s officially the most downloaded app in the world overtaking Facebook itself.

What’s inside

Right now TikTok is considered a time-waster because most of the content is useless

TikTok is extremely easy-to-use and very engaging: when you open an app you see a feed with a bunch of videos recommended to you, you can swipe them, pause them, like them, save them and leave comments. It’s easy to create good-looking videos with a powerful built-in editor.

💩 The problem, however, is that TikTok has collected all the shittiest content on the Internet in one place. 99% of the videos are meaningless — the app seems like a huge time-waster at first glance. I have tested it for about a year now, after seeing Gary Vaynerchuk’s encouragements and Mark Cuban’s dances. So here’s my review.

⏱ GaryVee said: invest 3–4 hours for TikTok in the next months, and you will understand it. The first 2–3 months it felt hopeless, I couldn’t spend more than 10 minutes there— I saw dances, and dances, and dances that were time to time mixed with some dumb challenges. I found a few profiles of professional skiers and snowboarders who posted high-quality videos from the mountains — with some trending “sounds”(music) it looked awesome — I love skiing and it made me feel nostalgic. Then I found a few luxury car bloggers, and some educators so I started following them too.

👍 The recommendations feed still seemed shitty when the “Following” started to generate some interesting content.

Although, all the main platforms have started like this. Even YouTube. You need to consider this.

YouTube has also started with fun viral videos, and, with time, the content became more structured so now many people regularly use YouTube for learning.

86% of U.S. viewers say they often use YouTube to learn new things.

Everything has changed

The lockdown made cool people join TikTok

⛓ When the coronavirus happened, everyone was locked at home. Some people had nothing to do with an overwhelming amount of free time and felt lonely— so they went on TikTok to engage with others virtually. The app has experienced a huge inflow of new content creators who started to generate some interesting content.

📚 Professors, politicians, teachers, grad students, entrepreneurs — everyone moved to TikTok. It’s easy to create short clips— much easier than making a good-looking YouTube channel. Additionally, in 2021 content-creation is essential for your personal brand. Besides, it’s fun.

Educational companies and brands also joined TikTok where they are targeting users who may not be the kind of people to actively seek information out but who are interested in science or business. Futurism, a digital media company focused on science and technology news, is a great example. For them, it’s easy to find a new audience on TikTok. And, if lucky enough, convert them into paying users.

With schools going online, some teachers started to create TikTok videos for their students explaining complicated concepts in a creative way. Even MIT Tech Review has an article about that.

>>That being said, since the start of the first lockdown a lot of new educational content appeared on TikTok, and it’s working. People love learning in this format, in this style. Proof of concept is here, let’s start building.

And I see a great opportunity in the market.

Why TikTok-style is the best solution?

In short, the technology behind TikTok awesomly fits our content-consumption style.

The TikTok-format is highly underestimated in terms of potential educational purposes. The short-video format with an easy-to-skip feature is a great idea for personalized micro-learning.

Here’s why this technology fits us so great.

Learning fast & On The Go

Micro-learning with the use of short clips

Micro-learning is a simple way to learn fast. The key characteristic of microlearning is brevity. It’s about getting a lot of concepts that are briefly presented — in an engaging, creative format —so informally.

When you can't commit to spending more than 10 minutes, when you don’t dive deep into some topic— you can micro-learn instead of wasting precious time scrolling through your socials. With the TikTok-style app, you can learn on the go.

Learning from peers

Social Learning — a theory proposes that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others

Informal learning from people around you just by communicating or consuming their speeches — like on TikTok or on YouTube, or when you’re talking to a friend. People learn 70% of what they know informally.

Customized learning with new algos

Adaptive learning — an educational method using ML to personalize the learning process

Adaptive learning is using computer algorithms to customize the learning experience by addressing the unique needs of each learner suggesting relevant content.

With innovations in AI, especially Machine Learning, algorithms are getting smarter and smarter soon to be able to personalize content much better. The same algorithms can be used to recommend more suitable posts on social media(TikTok, Instagram) or learning platforms. Here, we can use ML to customize the feed with videos that our user is certainly interested in.

High engagement

It doesn’t feel like an obligation, it’s fun

As mentioned in my other article, curiosity and engagement are the main “knowledge emotions” — they are the ones that make you retain information. I have researched the stats on audience engagement and TikTok has a higher average engagement rate than any other social media platform — because of its format.

Mirco-learning is like checking your socials rather than “serious study” on Coursera/ Udemy/ EdX and even YouTube, you don’t treat it like a job and the results turn out to be better. ’Cause, it’s fun and chill.


Not only is TikTok-style easy-to-use but also convenient-to-use.

You want to learn — but you can’t. When you’re on your phone it’s frustrating to navigate within YouTube, and I am not even mentioning learning platforms like Khan Academy/EdX/Coursera/etc.

No one watches CS50(a popular computer science course from Harvard, available on EDX) on a smartphone so let’s fight something else — the YouTube mobile app. Sorry, Andrey Doronichev.

TikTok vs Youtube app

It’s at least a 20 mins+ time commitment that you make going on YouTube. Then, you need to find something “quick” to watch when you’re already short on time. And the interface — it’s kinda inconvenient when you’re on mobile. You need to hold your phone in horizontal mode, meaning — a) you can’t put it down, b) you need to hold it with both hands. Imagine using it in an overcrowded subway. It’s a tremendous “EW!”. Most of the time, you won’t even try! What do you usually do in a subway?

Which app do most people use when in a rush?

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok — something “surface” and convenient to use in a vertical mode — that is the secret sauce for all the apps targeting the “on the go” use case. So-called time-killers

Why did Quibi really fail?

There is a famous case of Quibi. That’s precisely(partly) why Quibi* failed — they thought people wanted the vertical format of Hollywood production films — a big NO. This type of content requires high engagement and time commitment which isn’t “in a hurry” style at all.

You need both — strong mobile version and concise content.

You are hacking low engagement and shortage of time.

*Quibi, “a Netflix that never was”, used to be a startup that went from raising almost 2 billion dollars in (basically) pre-seed funding to nothing in six months after launch. A boomer founder, inspired by TikTok, decided to create a “revolutionary” product for Gen Z — vertical movies. He had aquired famous actors for filming the content — not the Gen Z’s favourites, though. Actually, everything that could go wrong did.

I will link a resource to learn more about this case below.

Back to YouTube.

Overall, TikTok has higher engagement rates than YouTube on both entertaining and educational content. Popular YouTubers are moving to TikTok or converting their old videos to fit the format of the new hit app.

TikTok-style, not necessarily TikTok itself

There are 2 potential outcomes: either TikTok invests in an educational program(and invests a lot) or a new startup comes along and copies TikTok format for an informal educational app.

The more realistic case is an independent company making an app that will later be acquired by a technological giant like Facebook, Google, or TikTok. Here’s why.

On one side, TikTok doesn’t want to be associated with stupid dances. But on the other side, for social media platforms, it’s essential to make people stay on the platform longer, and entertaining content does it best.

Have you ever tried going on YouTube/Instagram/TikTok to learn and in 4 hours found yourself in a rabbit hole watching some ‘harry styles being a cookie for 3 minutes straight…’ type of videos? That’s because of the algorithm in its core. Interesting, huh?

So the TikTok has a conflict of interest within itself: either it gets bigger as an entertaining platform or it rebuilds itself from the ground up to become more valuable. They haven’t made this choice yet.

Their experiment to have a separate learning tab seems to be frozen, now they are trying to promote hashtags like #LearnOnTikTok and build partnerships with top universities like Cambridge(I mean what??). Another Quibi case, duh.

If not TikTok, then what?


Google has launched Tangi — an app for creative people. TikTok-style but all videos are around DIYs, lifehacks, etc. The app has a horrible user interface, and it’s too niche. 👎🏻

However, there is an app that looks much more promising.


Founded in Belarus, Edudo is on its way to dominate the market of brand-new ways to learn. I reached out to Yuri Shlaganov (FreShlaganov), the CEO, to review the app and talk about the future of education. We had some meaningful discussions and he helped me prepare this article as well.

Yury was studying Generation Z when he got an idea for this app — relatively short interactive insightful videos that are divided into ‘bullet points’ (smaller videos like Insta-stories — one story for each important idea). Personalized feed(of course), quizzes, and gamification(like badges).

If you are making a whole new app like TikTok but for education, you might wanna add some unique features that help uniquely with learning which Edudo managed. The app is still in development and they are improving it along the way. They raised 180K in pre-seed funding.

They are targeting English-speaking zoomers. Edudo has more than 12 hours of content as of January 2021. It’s now available for download on iOS.

For now, it’s unclear whether it’s going to become a platform for creators or for businesses — a valuable timekiller or a modern ed-tech app. Either way, it already looks impressive.

The app was recently nominated for the Golden Kitty Awards on Product Hunt. 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

In a nutshell

  • most content on TikTok is shit, but all the platforms started like this(take YouTube)
  • educational content succeeds on TikTok which means that this consumption model is working for self-development topics
  • TikTok is highly unlikely to become a great educational tool, but similar apps focusing on the online Ed market like Edudo might
  • the Edudo app combines all trends in education: micro-learning, social learning, adaptive learning
  • ‘traditional’ educational platforms are inconvenient to use on a smartphone and require high concentration

My Conclusion

Those apps above, TikTok, or some new solution — we can’t possibly know but the concept seems quite promising. Soon we will see the next big thing in online education —short engaging videos you can watch anytime and anywhere. It’s very likely that this format will take a fair portion of the educational market forming an entirely new niche.

Edudo is likely to become a market leader so I recommend downloading the app and starting creating videos on this platform. As we know, the first creators grow as the app grows —it’s the next big thing you don’t wanna miss.

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Some resources

A YouTube playlist of videos I watched preparing this article. More resources: