Do Students Enjoy Tweeting in the Classroom?
This semester I taught Manship 4002: Strategic Social Media in the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU. You might have seen us tweeting with the class hashtag #Manship4002! Teaching this class was an amazing experience – every class period and assignment was, for me, an experiment in innovative teaching methods.
One thing that I had students do was “live-tweet” every class period, with special emphasis on live-tweeting guest lectures. Students were to live-tweet key points and questions based on class material using our hashtag, #Manship4002 – sort of like some of us scientists do at conferences! Outside of class, students would often refer to tweets in their weekly blog posts, or Storify live-tweets for class periods they found particularly interesting.
Using Radian6, I found that since January, our class has produced over 5,000 tweets! In a future blog post, I’ll analyze some of those tweets, and perhaps how students evolved in their tweeting performance over the course of the semester.
I really wanted to know if and how my students benefited from live-tweeting the in classroom, so I conducted a survey of the 41 students (survey respondents: 33 women, 6 men) taking Manship 4002 this semester, with IRB approval.
As an interesting note to start out with, only 36% of students indicated that they had tweeted regularly (at least several times a week) BEFORE taking this class. During class, most students (28) were tweeting from a laptop, several used their smartphones (3), and several used multiple devices at once (8).
89.4% of students agree that they benefited from live-tweeting lectures, and 92.1% of students agree that live-tweeting helped them learn to better express their thoughts on social media.
81.6% of students also agreed that live-tweeting helped them remember key points from each lecture. For example, most students found it useful to be able to look up #Manship4002 live-tweets after each class period (97.4%). Several students described these live-tweets as collaborative class “notes” that they could refer to later in writing blog posts, papers, etc.
Live-tweeting was also a very social activity that allowed students to extend their conversations with classmates outside the classroom. 65.8% of students agree that their live-tweets from lectures sparked meaningful conversations relevant to class material with other Twitter users. 89.5% of students agree that tweeting made it easier to connect with classmates (with 50% strongly agreeing that this was true). Most students (89.5%) even agree that they learned new things relevant to class material from classmates’ tweets.
Having a connection with me on Twitter both inside and outside the classroom also made most students (94.7%) feel that I (their teacher) was more engaged with their learning. I would answer questions that students had on Twitter immediately after each class period, and often answer students’ specific assignment questions through Twitter DM. I personally found that Twitter allowed me to respond very quickly to student questions!
In the end, 84.2% of students say that they would encourage other professors to have their students tweet during class periods. However, some students (31.6%) did agree that live-tweeting distracted them from learning lecture material. This may have been due to a learning curve for students not familiar with Twitter, who often expressed having to “think about what I’m going to tweet” during class, and thus being distracted from the lecture. This strategy may not be ideal for every student, and perhaps live-tweeting should be limited to some class periods instead of every class period.
I also had students answer some open-ended questions on what they found to be the benefits and drawbacks of live tweeting. Here are some of my favorite positive responses:
Accessible class notes from multiple perspectives:
“I really liked being able to refer back to the class notes anytime and study from the tweets. It was also nice interacting with classmates.”
“I really liked the fact that I could easily find lecture information using the class hashtag. Twitter is also easily accessible on mobile devices making it easy to study and find useful information on the go. I also liked that I could see my classmate's many different view points from the lecture.”
“Live-tweeting during class helped me remember key points to write about later in my blog posts. It also helped me gain more professional followers on Twitter. Tweeting in class made me pay attention more as well. Having everybody post using the class hashtag helped me better understand the material. I also got to know more people in class because we started following each other on Twitter and then on other social media platforms.”
“I enjoyed seeing what others in my class thought about what we were learning. During lectures, it is difficult to hear everyone's opinion. I found while live-tweeting everyone could voice their opinion/input. It was very helpful if I ever missed class, I could easily find out what we talked about.”
“Live-Tweeting allowed me to capture key points of the lectures instead of simply rewriting the notes the teacher posted. I'm a strong hands-on learner and live-tweeting helped me retain more information then I would if I was just copying my teachers notes because it allowed me to think about what the teacher said and rewrite it in my own words. I enjoyed interacting with my classmates and building a more intimate relationship with my professor. It was also exciting to hear from students outside of the classroom who felt like they were taking the class with me.”
Speaking up in class… on Twitter:
“The informal conversation that occurs on social media made it easier to ask questions without feeling I would judge or sending out a mass email to classmates. I enjoy reading the conversations between my classmates and their followers. It gave different perspectives of the material.”
Engaging with material and connecting with classmates:
“I think the live tweets are a great way to keep classmates engaged and spark conversations. Mostly, I enjoyed being able to brush up on key points covered in class if for whatever reason, I could not attend.”
“I did find myself enjoying this class more and felt closer to a lot of my classmates. I definitely think the twitter posts increased class involved during lecture and I like the fact that outside of the classroom, I can put faces to the names of many of my classmates where in other classes, I would not be able to do that.”
“One positive aspect of live-tweeting during class periods include the increased level of engagement in class. Rather than simply sitting in class and taking notes or not doing anything, live-tweeting allows students to breakdown lecture material into smaller, easier to digest portions in their own way. It also fosters conversation (via Twitter) with other classmates as well as other users interested in the discussion. This conversation engages students further and gets them thinking about the material. The use of #Manship4002 also allows all of the tweets to be collected and students are able to go back through all of the class tweets. The hashtag serves as a notes archive for students. I personally enjoyed the creative ways my classmates presented lecture material in their tweets. Being able to implement humor into the lecture material makes it seem more relatable as well as memorable.”
Gaining a professional Twitter audience:
“I enjoyed live-tweeting in class. It provided me with the opportunity to "rebrand" my twitter page. I was able to tweet about content that I was interested in, but also was very relevant to my future in the PR field. It also gave me the opportunity to connect with my peers, and with other professionals. I was able to build a PR-audience.”
“Live-tweeting made me really pay attention in lectures. I also feel that it was great preparation for the career path I have chosen.”
“I enjoyed engaging with brands and professionals in our field. I feel like some local businesses have benefitted from following our class and maybe they should be made more aware of our class hashtag. So that they can see what we are learning and possibly open opportunities for more internships.”
Getting Internships! Several students indicated that they gained career opportunities as a result of live-tweeting. Several students had interviews for internships where they were asked about the #Manship4002 tweets:
“I was able to secure a position working for an event at LSU.”
“At least one prospective employer had checked my twitter and seen posts.”
“I recently got an email from a public relations professional that followed me on Twitter about a seminar for Facebook. I also use my tweets from class as a guideline for the strategic social media plan I'm currently writing for my internship.”
“I got an internship at 225 magazine. They found me through Twitter during one class lecture.”
More engagement in Manship 4002 compared to other Manship classes:
“I enjoyed this class more than my Manship classes that did not use Twitter because it was interactive and made information memorable. It's also a sense of "meeting us where we're at" because we have our phones on us anyway, so why not use them for academics? I was able to be more involved outside of the classroom by asking questions and using the hashtag even if it wasn't during class time and it kept the information fresh.”
“I definitely enjoyed it more because I was paying more attention. i was more involved than I am in other classes.”
“I enjoyed this class more than other mass comm classes that did not use Twitter during class periods. I was able to stay more engaged in class and the skills I learned I now use at my internship. I can look back at my tweets or look up the class hashtag and get ideas for different things to do for my internship and for my own personal Twitter account. I also liked that my classmates would re-tweet and favorite my tweets during class. It made the class feel more like a support system, and I gained more followers because of it.”
“This class has been one of my favorite classes I have taken at LSU because it is so interactive and engaging. I was able to learn how to use Twitter from a hands on approach and I loved it. Twitter is so popular now that it is essential for Mass Communication majors to know how to use it effectively.”
“This is certainly one of the best classes I've taken at LSU! I wish more university courses used Twitter during their lectures because it allowed me to write more efficient notes and build stronger relationships with my classmates. I continue to reflect on my class throughout the week and always tweet my professor and/or our hashtag #Manship4002 if I find articles that are relevant to what we have learned. I've never been more involved in a course then I have with this one because it allows me to continue exploring the subject and interacting with my professor long after my class is over.”
“I definitely enjoyed this class more, I know I said that sometimes it would distract me from my notes but on the other hand it kept me engaged because I could instantly look up examples on twitter of our class topic.”
There Will be Negatives
Of course, there was also some negative feedback that teachers should consider when deciding whether to integrate Twitter into the classroom. Some students found live-tweeting to be distracting, particularly if they didn’t have previous experience crafting short and “to the point” Tweets during a “live” event. For these students, it may be best to have designated class periods for tweeting, instead of live-tweeting every single lecture.
“I don't really have any negative feelings towards live tweeting. My only problem came from the first time we live tweeted because I didn't know what live tweeting was and I only tweeted once. This resulted in a low grade for this participation activity and I wish I would have known that sooner. Other than that though, this class has been learning, stimulating and I really feel like I grew from it.”
“Many of my followers disliked how much a tweeted during that time period, so I would probably create another account with followers who are more interested in the class content.”
“It took me a little while to get the hang of live-tweeting. Initially it was distracting me from the speaker but it got much easier as time went on.”
“Overall it was distracting. I was more worried about getting participation points than truly typing something meaningful. Guest lectures would probably be the best use of live tweeting.”
“I wish the hashtag was shorter.”
“Sometimes it would become a little distracting and I would become more concerned with tweeting instead of actually absorbing the class material. This became less of a problem as the semester progressed and I became more comfortable with live tweeting.”
“The only negative aspect I can think of regarding live-tweeting is that it can sometimes get distracting. Sometimes I can't condense a message into 140 characters fast enough and end up falling behind.”
I’ll be posting raw data soon, for anyone who is interested!