Aug 05 2016

3 Unusual Ways College Professors Can Use Twitter

From class-based hashtags to office hours, more educators are getting the most out of 140 characters.

Ninety percent of college-aged students are using some sort of social media platform, a Pew Research Center study reports. So as educators, why not meet students where they are?

In 2012, Christine Greenhow, assistant professor of education at Michigan State University, conducted a study that found students who used Twitter as part of the classroom experience felt more immersed in the course content and more connected to teachers and other students, ultimately boosting their grades.

“[The students] feel it is connected to something real, that it’s not just learning for the sake of learning. It feels authentic to them,” she says in a blog post.

Here are three unique ways educators can use Twitter as part of the curriculum:


1. Facilitate Discussion in a Lecture Class

As early as 2010, professors were adopting Twitter as a communication tool, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Laura Ann Jimerson, an art history Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University, decided to use tweets as a regular part of her 2015 lecture-driven “Introduction to Art History” course. Reporting her success in a blog post on, Jimerson wrote that she enticed half of her class into tweeting with #arthist106 by offering two bonus percentage points. She responded to after-class questions, selected favorite tweets, and used the platform to live-stream a lecture on Van Gogh.

“In a large lecture hall, it can be intimidating for some students to participate. Twitter allowed everyone in the class to express their ideas,” Jimerson blogged.


2. Expand Traditional Office Hours

It can be hard to have a conversation in a lecture hall, and it’s usually not possible for professors to talk to all of their students during traditional office hours. With Twitter, professors have a viable option for offering virtual office hours. Howard Rheingold, a social media professor at Stanford University, has been using Twitter for “ambient office hours” since 2010, as U.S. News reports.

Vanderbilt University’s social media team hosts regular Q&A sessions, called #AskVU, that feature a variety of campus offices and individual professors. Chats have included talks with admissions and financial aid officers. A recent talk featured a political science professor talking about the upcoming election.


3. Update the Traditional Research Report

To help future scientists learn how to communicate findings outside of academic papers, the California Institute of Technology offers “Social Media for Scientists.” According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the class is taught by Professor of Chemical Engineering Mark E. Davis and Sarah Mojarad, a CalTech social media manager. The class aims to instruct science and engineering graduates and undergrads on how to interact professionally on Twitter and Facebook, as well as how to present information accurately and briefly.


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