An Investigation into the Potential Uses of Twitter within Learning and Teaching and the Implications for University Social Media Policies and Guidelines

Ed de Quincey @eddequincey – Keele University

The use of twitter in an educational environment has been the focus of a number of previous studies e.g. Mirski et al. (2010); Hend S. Al-Khalifa (2008) and the potential benefits of using twitter to support a variety of academic and personal activities have been well documented e.g. Mollet et al. (2011). However there have been few quantitative studies into the natural usage of twitter within learning and teaching and the implications for social media usage and policy within HE.

For this study, a set of tutorial instructions were co-developed with students to introduce them to the benefits of twitter, along with a set of use cases for twitter within the module e.g. using a course code hashtag (#COMP1678) to share course-related information. Twitter was then introduced during the first tutorial session for 3 courses at UG and PG level.

To evaluate the levels and types of activity by students and lecturers, an application was created that collected and stored the lecturers’ tweets, @mentions of the lecturers’ usernames and any tweet that contained the course code hashtags.

Around 80% of the students signed up for twitter and the majority sent at least one tweet. Only a few individuals made attempts at sharing information by the use of the course hashtags, which were predominantly used by the lecturers and not by the students. Around 31% of students though used twitter as a way of communicating with the lecturers regarding the course, enabling succinct and almost real time communication outside of the classroom.

Other issues relating to pastoral care, online identity and the separation of personal and private accounts were also encountered which fed into the production of a social media policy and set of guidelines, which have now been approved for use across the University.