The Tweet Taste of Success: Could Twitter Improve Your Grades?

Inside Higher Ed recently covered a study exploring Twitter as a tool for college learning. The results may surprise you: Students who tweeted were actually more engaged and attentive to the course material than students who didn't. The take-home message? Used correctly, you can tweet your way to a better class experience - and higher grades.

Social Networking

Studying with Social Media

If you're a college student, you've probably spent your fair share of time on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. And you've probably also heard your professors rail against such services as distracting, time wasting and otherwise useless to your studies.

But not all professors are stuck in the 20th century. Many have started integrating social media into their teaching, using online tools to help students stay connected and engaged outside of class.

Twitter can be used to help students stay in touch with their professors, or find experts on the course subject who regularly share new information and insights. The platform also offers many related tools that can be useful for higher education. Tweetchat provides a simple solution for bringing long-distance guest lecturers into the virtual classroom, and Tweetdeck can help students sort and prioritize the massive information influx.

Twitter for Education

Twitterpated for Education

Students and professors who have integrated Twitter into the pedagogical experience argue that it augments learning, rather than distracting from it. And now they no longer have to rely on anecdotal evidence to prove it.

In November, Inside Higher Ed covered a study by researchers at Lock Haven University (LHU), South Dakota State University (SDSU) and Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), originally published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. The researchers asked a group of first-year, pre-health majors, all of whom were new to Twitter, to use the application for 'educationally relevant activities' throughout the 14-week semester. Such activities included asking questions, starting class discussions, organizing study groups and getting reminders from professors.

The frequency with which the students tweeted during the term varied widely, with a median of 30 times and a mean of 48 times. But taken together, the researchers found something very interesting: The class' overall GPAs averaged half a point higher than those of a non-tweeting control group.

So how did Twitter raise student GPAs? The researchers suggest that it was due to an increase in student engagement. Using Twitter to keep the conversation going outside of the classroom 'produced a more rich discussion of students' relationships to themes covered in the book than would have been possible during the limited class time,' wrote the study's authors. Students who tweeted were 'extending the conversation,' forming more meaningful connections with the course material and therefore engaging in more effective learning.

Furthermore, Twitter helped students share ideas with each other both outside and inside the classroom. Researchers found that the students who tweeted engaged in more cross-communication about the text during class than those who didn't. This process helped students make more connections with the material - and with one another.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Twitter had a social benefit as well as an academic benefit. As students tweeted back and forth, they discovered that they shared values and interests with many other students, leading to the kinds of strong relationships across diverse groups that tend to be rare among first-year college students.

Classroom

Of course, the researchers aren't suggesting that higher education can be reduced to 140 characters. And the benefits of Twitter were realized under very specific circumstances: The whole class was using the application, and they were all using it to engage each other with course materials, not plan social events or share what they had for breakfast.

But the study does show that, used correctly, Twitter may prove to be an invaluable new tool in the 21st century professor's arsenal.

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