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Twitter improves college student engagement and grades

Posted by reyjunco on November 12, 2010 in Research |

Given popular interest in this paper, I thought I’d post a summary of what we did and what we found. To keep with the theme of the paper, I’m going to explain each section in 140 characters or less. You can download a PDF of the paper by clicking here.

Abstract

We ran a controlled study to see if using Twitter as part of a college course would increase student engagement and grades.

Introduction

Engagement is the magic bullet for student success. Social media seem to be related to engagement; however, no controlled studies available.

Methods

Randomly assigned 7 first year classes to Twitter/Control groups. Assessed engagement pre & post using NSSE. Assessed end-of-semester GPAs.

Results

Twitter group had significantly greater increases in engagement and significantly higher grades than control group.

Engagement Difference Scores Chart

End of Semester GPAs Chart

Discussion

Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students and to mobilize faculty into a more active and participatory role.

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  • RyanCraft

    Hi there, I enjoyed your study. I am curious if you ever came across GroupTweet.com and thought about using that in your experiment? Instead of using @ replies, you could simply activate the group account with GroupTweet to effectively serve as the central hub for your discussion via Twitter. I imagine it was tedious to make sure that all of the students were following each other as well as the @ faculty account, otherwise they won’t see when another student posts an @ faculty response. By using GroupTweet, each student would send a DM to the group account and it would then be rebroadcast out to the group. That way they only have to monitor one account and not each and every person in the group.

    Did you or the students find it difficult to monitor when another student messaged the @ faculty account? This article highlights some of the challenges relying upon the @ reply for fostering group communication. http://techcrunch.com/2009/05/12/twitter-decides-were-not-smart-enough-for-replies-changes-them-again/

    I’m the owner of GroupTweet.com and I’m working directly with several college professors who are trying out Twitter in their classrooms. Would love to hear your thoughts on whether this would have made your life easier!

    Ryan

  • http://JonHearty.com JonHearty

    Great post! Another brilliant use case for Twitter that will change my generation and the way we work/learn. I’ll be sure to share this with my followers. Thanks!

  • http://www.jmatthicks.com JMattHicks

    Sometimes I wish I was 10 years younger so I’d going to college 10 years from now. What technology and social media are going to do to the classroom is exciting, and quite honestly, I’m beginning to get a little jealous thinking of what I may have missed out on when I was in school!

  • professorlane

    Great research findings. I am in the nascent stages of similar action research.

  • DrMurphy

    You may not like what I have to say, but I took the time to read this research paper completely. Your methodology is questionable at best, and your findings are not valid. It’s sad that so many people simple take this at face value instead of really looking at the research. It’s especially disturbing in light of the fact that you should know better. You should know this.

    What you were actually comparing and testing were how faculty’e interaction with students, and their engagement, impacts student engagement. This could be done with any number of tools.

    Additionally, your methodology includes a detailed description of how you used Twitter, and almost nothing of how Ning was set up. Even if you did, however, the study would still only be comparing how you used to Twitter to how you used Ning, and nothing else. I am not against Twitter, nor am I saying it does or doesn’t impact learning or enagement, but your study proves neither. It was very poorly done, and poorly written, and your title is misleading.

    This is exactly why many of us are disgusted with the types of papers that are passed off as legitimate research. This one is most definitely not!

  • DevonAnderson

    Wow. This is such an excellent concept. One I have thought about in my own work from time to time. As a student in a Master’s program at a nationally accredited online university, sometimes communication can be slow, and I don’t have as constant access to my professor and classmates as I would like, it would be awesome to be able to use a tool like Twitter to provide continuous communication.

    Sure discussion boards are nice and convenient, but for instant gratification, Twitter seems to be the way to go. I enjoyed the discussion on how Twitter helps facilitate the seven principles for good practice in undergrad education, but I feel that those also apply to Higher Education as well. Twitter could really benefit students in all levels of college education, even to the Doctoral level. It would also be nice to be able to have all of the study groups/service learning options/support/reminders right at my fingertips, in one easy place like Twitter. There would be no need to log into my classroom and check my emails and announcements. I could do it from my phone and sync it to my calendar.

    Questions though, arise. If this was done on a longer scale, for more than just one intro course, and was introduced as a program-wide option for students to use, say all year, do you think the results would be the same or more comprehensive? I think if students were able to use it for a longer period of time, and those who would not be the most tech-savvy given a longer opportunity to learn it and grow with it, the successes and results would be substantial and it could just possibly catch on for a program of study to use as one of its resources. I may be wrong and blinded by my Twitter-optimism on this, but I would like to know what you think, Dr. Junco (or anyone else who may have an opinion), as someone who focuses on social media as a learning tool.

    Thanks for the report. Another great read! And more food for thought for this future college professor….

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