The OERu hosts its own social learning network using mastodon.oeru.org for course specific activities and a backchannel for our learning community. A backchannel is a networked conversation that runs alongside the primary course conversations. You will need to know how to use the course hashtag in your toots for course related posts: #IENT101


What is a Mastodon social network?

Mastodon is a federated social network with microblogging features similar to Twitter. As a federated technology, it is administered independently across many open source software servers around the world called instances rather than a single corporate provider. The OERu instance of Mastodon is hosted at mastodon.oeru.org.

Using hashtags

Many software applications provide support for a dedicated tag field (for example, blogging software or forum software) whereas other applications support a special case of tagging called “hashtags” where the tag is incorporated in the body of the text.

  • Tags are user generated keywords or labels added to posts. The use of tags makes it possible to search for related posts using the same tag and, because they’re machine readable, assists software applications to automatically generate tag clouds or filter posts using the specified tag.
  • Hashtags are tags prefixed with the hash or pound sign (“#”) without any spaces, for example “#IENT101”. Many social media sites support the use of hashtags in the body of a text post. This enables users to search for posts using a specific hashtag.

In the case of Mastodon, you need to use hashtags in the body of your post. For instance, if you are posting about this course, you should include “#IENT101” in the body text of your post. This serves two purposes:

  1. Provides the ability to search for all posts on Mastodon which contain the hashtag
  2. Enables the OERu platform to automatically “fetch” and include your post in the course feed.

Note that you can post mentions without the hashtag, which is useful for backchannel and other conversations that won’t be displayed in the course feed.

Today is a good opportunity to test how hashtags work before you commence your studies with OERu. We will show you how to do this in the activities below.


Activity: Toot using the course hashtag

Purpose: Confirm digital skills to post a toot using the course hashtag.



  1. Create an account on mastodon.oeru.org (if you don’t already have one).
  2. Please edit your profile information (Don’t forget to do this otherwise your name and image will be undefined in the course feed.).
    • Fill out a display name (most learners use their real name)
      Mastodon Display name screenshot.png
    • Upload an avatar or profile image
      Mastodon Avatar screenshot.png
    • Click “Save changes”.
  3. Set your email notification preferences – We recommend checking “Send e-mail when someone mentions you” for new account holders.
  4. The “Home” column displays “Toots” from people you follow. By default, new accounts are set to follow the site administrators so that your Home column is not empty when you first join.
  5. Click on the local timeline to see “Toots” from members of the mastodon.oeru.org instance of Mastodon.
    Screenshot Mastodon Local-timeline.png
    • Find a few users you would like to follow by clicking on the username and then clicking on the “Follow” button.
  6. Post a toot and include the hashtag “#IENT101” in the body of your post, sharing why you joined this course. For example:
    • I joined the #IENT101 course because … (Note there are no spaces between the “#” and letters of the code.)
  7. Go to the search bar and type in “#IENT101″and press enter to display all toots with the hashtag contained in the post. (Results are displayed in the last column on a wide screen display with the column heading: #IENT101.)

Need help?

Visit the OERu support site for additional help to: