Throughout high school, we were constantly told to put our phones away. In my Creative Writing degree, they ask us to put pen to paper and disconnect from the online world. However, Communications and Media Studies tells us to download Twitter, make an account, and live-tweet the lectures every week. When I was given the opportunity to research something that I was curious about in terms of student life, this was the first thing that came to mind – how and why do university students use Twitter to communicate with each other and their educators?
Countless studies have been undertaken within the last ten years about how social media effects university teaching, many of which focus on the scholars’ use of the platform rather than the students’ use of the platform. Carpenter and Krutka suggest that Twitter is the ideal place for professional development for educators, stating that “rather than being beholden to set programs and schedules, Twitter allows for participation ‘as often/much as I want’ and ‘when the situation calls for it” (2014, p. 716).
As for students, many of my peers seem to find Twitter to be a helpful and fun source. However, that brings forth more questions about consistent use, personal use, and reasons as to why Twitter is so valued – things I will explore further within my research. Tiernan’s 2013 study suggests that many students liked the use of Twitter within the classroom, as it gives them an alternative to speaking in class, it’s easily accessible, and you can communicate with people across the world. Tiernan states that “some students who did not tweet later regretted ‘not using it more, as being shy, they could have benefited’ from engagement” (2013, pp. 681-682).
However, these first two research papers were conducted more than five-years-ago, meaning that the data is most likely inaccurate. Since 2013, the average monthly users have significantly increased (see below), from just below 250 million monthly users at the end of 2013, to 335 million monthly users in mid-2018.
More recent research conducted by Veletsianos and Kimmons states that “students believed social media could be more convenient … while faculty were more likely to believe that such media were not appropriate for classwork” (2016, p.2). This suggests that since the 2014 research paper was released, the outlook of educators has drastically changed.
Within our classes, we are told that Twitter is the perfect way to communicate with millions of people from all around the world. We are able to share our ideas, not only with people from our own communities, but with people who may oppose or challenge our ideas too. Carpenter and Krutka (2014, p. 708) state that “when used well, new media have made it easier and cheaper for people to meaningfully shape public dialogues,” and I feel that that is even more accurate within the university context. By sharing the platform with students, academics, and strangers alike, we are able to communicate better with those around us. I believe that Twitter is a valuable resource, as you can ask questions to your tutors or peers and gain quick and reliable answers. With that being said, the opinions of students and educators seems to have different significantly over the last six years, and is something I’d like to further investigate.
In order to get relevant, timely, and accurate information on this topic, I’ll need to conduct my own research into how students and educators from the University of Wollongong use Twitter to communicate with each other. I feel that this is valuable and important information for future students and academics, as relevant, accurate, and Australian-based information regarding this is very limited.
Carpenter, J & Krutka, D 2014, ‘Engagement through microblogging: educator professional development via Twitter’, Professional Development in Education, pp. 707-728
Tiernan, P 2013, ‘A study of the use of Twitter by students for lecture engagement and discussion’, Education and Information Technologies, pp. 673-690
Veletsianos, G & Kimmons, R 2016, ‘Scholars in an increasingly open and digital world: How do education professors and students use Twitter?’, Internet and Higher Education, pp. 2-10