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Twitter: A Tool to Engage the Online Student

Submitted by on October 13, 2012 – 7:22 pm5 Comments

  • Social networking sites can help foster student engagement.
  • Twitter’s minimalistic features make it a top contender among social networking sites to incorporate in learning environments.
  • In the virtual classroom, Twitter can help students create meaningful connections with each other and instructors, as experienced by Theresa Billiot, assistant professor at Fort Hays State University

  Social networking sites can help foster student-student and student-instructor engagement, specifically Twitter because of its simple design and minimalistic nature that set it apart from other social network competitors. If you’ve concluded that Twitter and all other social networking sites have no meaningful use in academia, think again. A study conducted by Dr. Ray Junco, professor in the Department of Academic Development and Counseling at Lock Haven University, found that Twitter can increase student engagement and GPAs in the college classroom when used appropriately. What about in the virtual classroom? Theresa Billiot, assistant professor of marketing at Fort Hays State University, was at first hesitant to incorporate social media into her online course. But after giving it a try, Twitter proved to be a successful platform for creating student engagement outside the boundaries of the learning management system (LMS). Billiot found that for the needs of her specific course, Twitter offered a more appropriate space for class discussions rather than the traditional discussion board feature provided in the LMS. In attempt to prevent isolation among online students, Billiot used Twitter to connect these students with on-campus students taking the same course and even combined both class types for a group assignment where teams had to develop a social media campaign using  Twitter. Billiot summarizes the overall student and instructor benefits:

Twitter not only helped me to forge a stronger connection with my online students, but it also allowed me to help improve the academic work of all my students, online and on campus, in a new, interactive way (Billiot, 2011).

Billiot also found Twitter to be helpful when tracking students’ work throughout the course:

Twitter made my students’ efforts (or lack thereof) more obvious. At the end of the semester, those students who had underperformed with their campaigns admitted that they should have exerted more time and energy on a project that was visible to students, faculty, and other Twitter followers (Billiot, 2011).

If you decide to incorporate Twitter in your online course, communicate your class-specific Twitter hashtag in the getting started area along with the expectations for using it. As you would for any new technology tool, set students up for success by providing short videos or how-to guides to help familiarize them with Twitter, specifically for first-time users. Billiot, Theresa. (2011, September 29). In one online class, twitter brings students together. Retrieved from

 By Sarah Linden Manager, Learning Technologies