Sep 21, 2016

Using Twitter for Class Participation

Sheila Roy

Class participation in management schools is an oft-used means of student engagement. By and large, all management models and frameworks have room for interpretation when viewed from different contexts. Participation draws the students into a conversation through which the topic being taught can be analysed in various real life contextual settings.

Now, most will agree that young learners are social media natives. And they live by the ‘omni-channel’ mantra of ‘the party continues online’….just like the dance, the music, the conversation in a party continues through photographs, comments, smileys and emoticons. So, is it possible to extend class participation beyond the square class walls and semicircular seating arrangements and make the learning process ‘omni-channel’? Is it possible to engage students in conversations such that engagement beyond the classroom is not only about assignments and projects but about sharing interesting content related to the subject and thus enhancing the learning process.

So as is the flavour of everything digital, an experiment is worth a try. The experiment did have a precedence in a digital marketing course wherein students were graded on the content and virality of their tweets.

In my course, ‘E-business – Logistics and Fulfillment’, which I taught earlier in this year, the objective was slightly different. My course was about a topic that was (and still is) a whirlpool of exciting developments. A large number of startups were focusing on addressing the last mile problem for e-commerce businesses and an equal number were focused on improving the efficiencies in the logistics and fulfillment industry. Fresh ideas and new ventures were being reported almost daily.

Students were requested to search for news items or white papers that they found interesting and tweet the links with the hashtag #lfmeb. Of course, not all students had a twitter account. Therefore the participation on twitter was not made mandatory. But students who did have an account seemed to be following their classmates’ twitter handles as well, which worked well for the retweet process. Students were asked to search twitter for #lfmeb everyday and read what their classmates had tweeted. By the fourth session, half of the class were well onto it.

I did make it a point to read up all the articles tweeted before the start of class, and retweet them. That’s when it dawned on me that many of the articles that had been tweeted were conversation starters in class. So each day, I would refer to these articles at the start of the class to stress on some of the points that were discussed in the previous classes. And, we all got to discuss contemporary applications and challenges.

Over time, what I realised was that the students and I had catalogued a large number of articles related to E-business logistics and fulfillment. It was an easy way to curate current news items and share with participants beyond the classroom as well, i.e. by just searching for the hashtag #lfmeb on twitter, anyone interested could access the information. There was no need to create a shared drive or blog to curate it. We had managed to crowdsource the content for the next course run.

Was the experiment a success? I think so. It sparked discussions on contemporary issues which was the goal. It helped curate the interesting few and improved the content for my future class. And of course, It helped me increase my twitter followers.


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