“Following” Your Professor?

With over 5 million users, Twitter is the third largest social network.  Young adults (ages 18-24) are the most active users of status update services through social media. However, they seem to be the primary demographic missing from Twitter. Twitter, the micro-blogging site, is slowly trickling into the education system in hopes of bringing professors and students closer through a more impersonal setting.

Many professors are starting to experiment with Twitter as a teaching device.  Professors who teach in the public relations and communication field are finding that social media are key devices for the educational content.  These professors expect students to practice incorporating social media as a marketing strategy to use for future business clients. Thus, students who “follow” a professor’s tweets can look at additional information that complements the professor’s lecture. Students are also able to ask further questions not only about the lecture but about the industry.

Other faculty members are questioning the use of Twitter in an academic setting. Of  those who have never used Twitter, 68.8% question its educational relevance.  Many professors feel they have enough channels of communication to discuss academic information with students already.  These professors feel  like if they add Twitter to the combination, many students and themselves will  experience “technology overload”.

Instructional uses of Twitter as a “learning tool in the classroom” are less popular than other Twitter function. Whether the instructional use will gain popularity in the coming years does not seem promising.  Just over half of current Twitter users say they expect to increase their use of micro-blogging during the coming academic year. Most Twitter users say their use will remain the same.  Schools and professors will need to construct a plan of action to encourage student participation.  They should plan for challenges such as:

  • Keeping students focused on the topic
  • Learning how to write clear, concise tweets within the 140-character limit
  • Ensuring comments remain constructive and professional

Schools also need to remember a key concept, Twitter does not happen overnight.

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