Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Twitter in the Higher Education Classroom: A Student and Faculty Assessment of Use and Perception

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Twitter in the Higher Education Classroom: A Student and Faculty Assessment of Use and Perception

Article excerpt

Use of social networking media has increased exponentially among every demographic since becoming available in the late 1990s (see boyd & Ellison, 2008). Consequently, this increase in interpersonal communication has the potential to be integrated beyond social avenues and into professional fields (Simon, 2001; Veletsianos, 2012). Higher education is one specific professional example that has adopted new technologies, such as online courses or support systems, in recent years to increase course effectiveness (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009). However, the utility of social media in higher education has not been fully described.

Recently, social media networks in higher education have been recommended as an avenue to improve scholarship (boyd & Ellison, 2008). Revere and Kovach (2011) suggested that an online component of academia provides a continuous stream of information better suited for "always on" students. Further, Baird and Fisher (2005) suggested that social media will increase the relevance of classroom learning with new generations by relating to younger and increasingly "electronic" centered learners. However, the relative age of social media and paucity of studies that directly quantify its perception and function in higher education facilitate limited inference on the utility of social media in academia (Hendrix, Chiarella, Hasman, Murphy, & Zafron, 2009).

Prior studies have identified both positive and negative aspects of incorporating social media into higher education course structure. The most frequently cited benefits are the increase in communication through a platform where students can become actively involved in their education (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009; Simon, 2001). Negative aspects of social media in academia have been cited as information deluge, loss of focus, student identity management issues, and unprofessional interactions (Faculty Focus, 2010). Young (2009) outlined using Facebook and Twitter in an undergraduate classroom as a forum to post in-class questions for large-scale display and discussion. Although Young (2009) cited frequent "derailment" of lecture topics as a major detriment, the study emphasized the overall benefits of increased interaction between students and faculty as positive.

Twitter (Twitter, Inc.; https://twitter.com) may be of particular interest in higher education because of the quantity of information and the format through which it is disseminated. Twitter is organized as "feed" style news bulletins, which convey up to 140 characters that users can monitor. This constant stream of information is updated via any online device and provides an opportunity to preferentially link to particular users or groups. In the classroom, this can facilitate students following professional societies, organizations, or faculty, as well as contributing discussion points or questions across a network. The character limit and format for "following" make this social media outlet well suited for academia by encouraging information-rich and succinct communication while staying abreast of events in professional fields. A recent study by Junco, Heibergert, & Loken (2011) found that increased engagement through the use of such tools as Twitter would empower students and translate into increased concept retention, course enjoyment, and student achievement. Interestingly, in a similar study by Welch and Bonnan-White (2012), groups exposed to Twitter were not measurably different from control groups.

Our primary study objectives were to assess the use of social media among students and faculty and to evaluate preconceived perceptions on incorporation into course structure. Our secondary objective was to incorporate Twitter into an existing course and evaluate student response. The overarching goals of this study were to obtain a broad representation of the perceived utility of social media across multiple levels of higher education in the sciences and to apply the technique and gauge student perception before and after implementation. …

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