Junco, Reynal, C. Michael Elavsky, and Greg Heiberger. “Putting Twitter to the Test: Assessing Outcomes for Student Collaboration, Engagement and Success.” British Journal of Educational Technology 44.2 (2013): 273-287. EBSCO. Web. 26 May 2014.
The authors of this article conducted a study of using Twitter in two university courses, concluding that required use of Twitter with actively engaged faculty results in increased student engagement and academic achievement. In the study, one class was required to use Twitter and the faculty actively engaged with students on the platform, answering student-tweeted questions or offering tweets of encouragement in response to student tweets expressing anxiety. In the other class, Twitter use was optional and the faculty rarely interacted there with students. The authors used a mixed method with both qualitative analysis of tweet content and quantitative analysis of student grades and engagement survey responses. They find that students in the first group had significantly higher engagement over the course of the semester than the second group. Additionally, the first group had significantly higher grades and greater rates of improvement between a pre-test and post-test. Interestingly, the study found that there was no difference between students in the second group who used Twitter voluntarily and their peers who chose not to use it. This leads the authors to conclude that “faculty engagement on the platform is essential in order to impact student outcomes” (284). This article would be especially helpful to anyone interested in the pedagogical uses and benefits of Twitter. The authors clearly outline an effective strategy for use: requiring student use, meaningful course integration, and faculty interaction. I also recommend this article as an example of a systematic study of a pedagogical tool. Often studies of classroom techniques and tools rely on qualitative analyses only, such as anecdotal narratives. However, when arguing for the introduction of new tools in a department or asking for funding, quantitative or “hard” data is usually more convincing. Having a study like this that controls for external factors and uses reliable statistical analysis to show an unequivocal improvement in engagement and achievement is particularly useful. I also find this article helpful in supporting a position that faculty interaction is often the key ingredient in student success and building a sense of community.