Using Twitter for Higher Ed

There have been a lot of posts lately about the uses of Twitter. Andrew Careaga asked Should Universities Tweet?, a University of Auburn student, Brett Pohlman posted about Twitter, Chris Brogan wrote about a company that Uses Social Media to Announce, and The Chronicle questioned whether it would take off with professors. Last week we brought in Shel Holtz, a consulting agent who spoke about social media in higher education, and he talked a lot about using Twitter. But I was really hoping that he would go into HOW to effectively use Twitter for Higher Ed. This is something that I have been running through my mind for some time now. I have been using Twitter for a good couple of months. The uses in my life are easy to track. I use it to keep up with not only my friends, but also people in higher education that I share similar interests with, etc. It gives me ideas and lets me keep up with what projects they are working on. Here’s an example…FJ Gaylor is an excellent Higher Ed photographer, Shel Holtz who I mentioned before, Matt Herzberger is a Web Rockstar at the University of Texas A&M, Brad J Ward is the Electronic Communications Coordinator (ie visionary) at Butler University, Heidi Cool is a web designer at Case Western Reserve University, and Seth Meranda is the Assistant Director of Interactive Media at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

twitter feed

I mention all this because these are all people that I follow (and who follow me) so that we can keep each other updated. We do it as friends and we do it as professionals.

However, I have been searching for a convincing manner in which to use Twitter for Higher Ed effectively. Amongst all the turmoil in my head lately (hence the lack of blog postings), I came up with an idea. The Admissions Department at UIS has been thinking about ditching the chat feature on our page for something much better. It is a very expensive service that doesn’t get used that often. So I thought, why not set up a UIS Admissions Twitter account and post that on our website? Most people in the chat use it like an IM and use very short sentences. Not only that, they don’t have to wait until a chat date to talk with someone. Our Student Ambassadors (as well as myself) can/will check the Twitter account during the day, and I will monitor it at night. It probably wouldn’t get that much use normally, but on days where we have advertised chat sessions, a group of ambassadors would be logged in and could post responses to it.

Now this may not be the best way to go about a live chat, but for all the time where the chat isn’t live, I think this would work well. Students have to log in to the chat anyway, so why not get them started on Twitter and build a community before they come to college. That way when they get here, they already have some connections.

If anyone has any good suggestions for a Live Chat service, let me know because the one we have now is not attractive and very expensive. This is definitely one area in which we could cut back costs since our governor keeps reducing our budget…that’s just my own personal insight and not necessarily shared by others.

I did want to mention one last thing though. Shel Holtz mentioned that the University of Michigan implemented Twitter as a FREE Emergency Notification System. There has been a lot of talk about ENS’s lately, and I know UIS has invested a lot of money into a cell phone notification system. The fact that someone at Michigan said why not use Twitter to send text messages to students is brilliant! I only wish I would have thought of that first…

31 Responses to “Using Twitter for Higher Ed”

  1. March 4, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Thanks for this great, thought provoking article. I’m pretty new to the tech in higher ed concept, but this idea is great! We have a live chat feature that doesn’t get a ton of use, so maybe this is an idea.

  2. March 4, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Do u have a link to info about Michigan’s twitter? And or their profile.

  3. 3 eac
    March 4, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Ciao! I adapted twitter for my language classes and just presented the preliminary findings at a conference this past week. If you’re interested, read the rationale:


  4. March 4, 2008 at 11:40 am

    @matt herzberger I actually couldn’t find the Michigan site, but VT has Twitter EMS…http://trisignia.com/2007/04/17/twitter-and-the-virginia-tech-emergency/

    @eac That’s great idea! Some professors here are using/thinking about using it as well for class. I’ll check out your report! Thanks for the link!

  5. March 4, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Great post Jeremy, haven’t done much tweeting today… But I am thinking about you guys, while slaving in the Florida Sun

  6. March 4, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    @Joe, Thanks! But I’d give my left arm to be where you guys are…I’d take 80+ degrees over 27 and 4-6 inches of snow any day…haha.

  7. March 4, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Looks like you beat me to the punch on the Twitter for Higher Ed study. Yeah I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around a good way to use it also. I think you did hit on some of the high points though.

    As far as a live chat option our admission office has been using BoldChat http://www.boldchat.com/ this year. I don’t know much about it, but I would be happy to ask if you would like?

  8. March 4, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    @kyle and @frank Thanks for the links guys! I will definitely check those out in the morning!

    @kyle Sorry to beat you to the punch, but hopefully this gives you some inspiration for your studies!

  9. March 4, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Jeremy, no harm done. Twitter has been getting a lot of buzz around the Higher Ed blog sphere the last few weeks. The more people we have talking about things the better!

  10. March 5, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I’ve been trying to get a handle on the Twittering as well. I’ve read about classroom use and emergency use. I think it would be a good redundant addition to our other emergency notification services. I also imagine it as an extra place to post news and/or events. I’m stuck on the idea now that we need to provide more redundant pathways for information.

    NPRnews posts headlines via Twitter with links to the full stories. That would be easy enough to do at a university. Or if we consider other services, why not post your videos on YouTube in addition to on the university site. Other users are doing much of this anyway, but if we start posting to these services we control what goes where. And we create new pathways through which people can discover our content and sites.

    As far as personal use of Twitter goes I’m still not that active. I’m an avid Powncer, because I like discussion, but a lot of folks there cross-post to Pownce, Twitter and Jaiku all at once. Their longer posts just get truncated on Twitter with a link to the full post on Pownce. There are lots of possibilities here.

  11. March 5, 2008 at 9:00 am

    @kyle I totally agree! If we do use this in higher ed for recruitment, the more talk we have the better.

    @heidi I brought up the idea that we could use it as a compliment to our News RSS feed on our homepage at a meeting on Monday, but at the same time, I really have to evaluate whether people would be using these services (there’s not a whole lot that use the RSS as it is – they prefer to just go to the homepage) and we don’t want to overwhelm people with technology they don’t understand/won’t use, etc.

  12. March 5, 2008 at 9:25 am

    Are there any High School students on Twitter?

    It seems to be a Slashdot(?) type crowd… Last week, my wife asked me about it, and she is not techie, but she had just read a reference to it in the paper.

  13. March 5, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Using some easy PHP or web services out there, you can publish your news right to Twitter – that’s what we’re doing here: http://www.twitter.com/alleghenycol

  14. March 5, 2008 at 10:53 am

    @jamieH-S Thanks for the link! We’ll check it out. As far as High School students on Twitter, I’m not sure. I’m holding a focus group tonight actually to discuss with them how they would feel about adopting a technology like this and whether or not they’ve used them in the past. I’ll check out the Slashdot crowd as well. I think the goal would be for our Admissions Counselors to push Twitter during their high school visits in the hopes that they would communicate with us when they got home.

    @Mike It seems like I ran across you before. How long have you guys been Twittering? I noticed that you have ten followers. I’m debating whether it would be good to have us out there posting info that few would read, or devote the time to something else. Let me know what your experiences with that has been so far! Thanks!

  15. January 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    our law school uses “ParaChat” as an online services and love it. It’s cost effective ($350) for a year and it can be managed from anywhere at anytime.

  16. May 12, 2009 at 7:39 am

    This is a good article that makes me think more about the direction of Social Media and Twitter in the class room. Thanks for opening the discussion.

  17. May 19, 2009 at 10:11 am

    At UNLV we are going to start ezperimenting with using individual students on our web site who blog and update their twitter accounts to talk about what they are doing at the university as sort of a way to connect prospective students to what campus life is like. These students will also be trained to answer questions about the University. I don’t know if it will catch on, but we have all of these student workers, and it is summer so….

  18. 20 Mark Smith
    October 6, 2010 at 1:47 am

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