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Twitter In The University/College Classroom

Bored students in lecture hall MP900443256

This past summer when I was at York University for the Rogers Cup I got to talking to a Health Sciences professor – Professor Christopher Ardern – about social media and its place in a university class. There are the obvious uses for many types of social media in a college setting such as creating a group on Facebook so people can keep in touch with one another and with their Teacher’s Assistant(s) and/or Professor without “friending” them.

However, being the huge Twitter addict that I am I soon found the conversation veering towards that social media outlet. (OK, I steered it there.) Professor Arden told me how he would be teaching a higher level course with a smaller class size than any first year or second year classes. It was then that I asked him if anyone had ever tried using a hashtag for the course to foster discussion between different students in different universities taking a course on the same subject matter and he told me no one ever had.

Chemistry Teacher with Students in Class mp900422591

The way I pictured it as I was discussing it with him would be a after consultation with the professor’s peers teaching similar (or even the same) material they could agree on a hashtag. This predetermined hashtag would then be written into the syllabus and given to each student in each of the university classes at the beginning of the course. The hashtag could then be used to “increase the size of the class” by adding students from different universities to the conversation. As well, it would be beneficial because although each class is learning the same material each professor has his or her own teaching style and method of explaining concepts. Students would be able to have the benefits of more than one person explaining concepts to them so if they didn’t quite understand one professor’s method, another’s might make everything clear to them.

This hashtag could or could not be monitored depending on the preference of the different professors and students would understand this beforehand. This has the benefit, though, of being reliably from a different similarly accredited professor and not just off some random website or Wikipedia.

Professor Arden did mention after our talk that he was considering doing a trial run of my hashtag suggestion for his upcoming winter semester course. However, I never followed up with him (until earlier today) to see if he had tried it out. I will let you know what he says if/when he emails me back.

Any academics/students/professors out there reading this blog? Has this been tried already? What do you think of the idea? Let me know below!

Photos via Microsoft Office.

  1. April 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Awesome idea. It’d definitely keep me interested in whatever I was studying. Only concern would be potential nonsense getting thrown into the mix of actual topically focused tweets. I guess that’s what blocking and filters are for though. Sidenote: Did Mitt Romney start out as a stock photography model? That’s an amazing rags to riches story in itself.

    • April 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Very true it would help to keep interest. The issue about nonsense is relevant I suppose but it is just as likely that would happen in a Facebook Study Group group or in a forum thread.
      Until you mentioned the Mitt Romney thing I didn’t see it but now, WOW! Great call!

  2. April 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Great post! Always wondered why classes don’t utilyze social media more, especially classes on communications, marketing or PR.
    I have seen Humber Public Relations students grads using the #HumberPR hashtag to share interesting PR-related content or internship and job opportunities which is great. I look at the hashtag just to see what’s up sometimes.

    • April 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

      True Jamie, I have also seen the #HumberPR bandied about the Twittersphere although unlike you I haven’t looked into it.
      The last notable use of social media by students that I can think of was when those students in Ryerson who were threatened with expulsion after working together in a group on Facebook on a project that they were supposed to have done individually – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2008/03/06/facebook-study.html – remember this?

  3. Lora Giangregorio
    April 13, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Interesting idea. Might be hard with specialized upper year electives that don’t have comparable courses elsewhere but would be good for first and second year required courses.

    • April 14, 2012 at 12:14 am

      Thanks a lot Lora. I meant it more for the upper year required courses as opposed to electives.I also thought of it useful for upper year courses because they have smaller class sizes so this can ‘artificially increase’ the size of the class.
      As an example the professor I mentioned above taught a course this past year titled “Epidemiology of Physical Activity, Fitness and Health” – https://w2prod.sis.yorku.ca/Apps/WebObjects/cdm.woa/32/wo/76NGfhq8q5dh46tNOYmSKM/ – which was a 3rd year course at York University. When I spoke to him about it he mentioned there were definitely colleagues of his doing similar types of courses in other universities.
      Of course, it can be used for lower level courses as well.
      Thanks so much for the comment.

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