Teaching with Twitter: an extension to the learning environment

In 2013 course unit director in Macroeconomics course, Paul Middleditch set out to explore if and how Twitter could be used to improve the student experience in higher education (HE). Twitter is a well-known social media communication platform but its potential benefits in HE and specifically in macroeconomics teaching, had not been explored.

Two core aims were present from the outset

  • To create course community/social benefits
  • To enhance student experience and increase engagement with the course.

Twitter was used in two large courses: ECON20401 – 2nd Year UG Macroeconomics IIA – approx. 400 students (#BigMacII ) and ECON30611– 3rd Year UG Macroeconomics IIIA (#Macro3A). In both courses course leader Paul Middleditch encouraged students to use Twitter to communicate with classmates or course unit director publicly and privately, encouraging in particular the use of Twitter for short communications such as posing questions that could be responded in 140 characters!

Twitter was used across the length of the module with evaluation and student feeback to measure its effectiveness. In his final evaluation, Paul concluded that Twitter had proved to be an effective extension to the VLE

  • Twitter could effectively be used to reinforce (but not replace) announcements made through institutional platforms (Campus Solutions, Blackboard)
  • It was observed that students were more likely to approach/contact course leader in a less formal settings
  • Twitter provided efficient contact between lecturer and student, from palm to palm.
  • For the instructor, compared to e.g. anonymous discussion boards in Bb, Twitter allowed to easily identify the sender of a tweet and to answers to questions using ‘reply all’, saving the lecturer time on repetition. Course hashtag became a course FAQ.

Overall, Twitter proved to be effective in more than being a way to broadcast messages. Students used it as a platform to interact and learn from each other, especially the re-tweet function supported such peer communication. Finally, students used Twitter as a tool to feedback to the course unit director on how the course was going and to contribute to developments.

Staff attitudes to social media

Aware of the potential reticence to the use of Twitter by academic colleagues, Paul used a presentation to an academic audience on this project to explore academic attitudes to the use of social media as a pedagogical tool. Paul asked the academic audience (before and after his presentation), their views of the effectiveness of Twitter to assist instructors in meeting four objectives:

  • To reinforce course announcements
  • To enable students to ask questions about the course
  • To enable students to learn from each other
  • to provide other benefits to students

Interestingly, the responses from participants on the usefulness of Twitter for teaching purposes changed over the course of the presentation.

  • Students are more likely to engage with the lecturer, using Twitter informally. They also have a platform to learn from one another (peer interaction).
  • Students have a tool to feedback to you on how the course is going and also to contribute to the course. When you do something good, they are quick to reward you for it.


Student Feedback

…very engaging with the students and creative. He was the only lecturer who used Twitter so efficiently and the introduction of the interaction lectures were by far the greatest motivation for me to come to lectures…

The twitter was also brilliant especially for clearer understanding. I did not have to personally ask any questions through twitter, as reading all the tweets from other students automatically answered all my queries and using the hashtag made finding tweets … easy and painless.


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School: SOSS

Academic: Paul Middleditch

Course: ECON20401 Macroeconomics

Theme: Learning Socially, Student community

PowerPoint Presentation

Teaching with Twitter (PowerPoint)

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