By Brittany Smythe
BSBA Marketing ’11
Twitter and other forms of social media are increasingly a part of students’ regular communication. Last spring, MIS lecturer Shyam Jha was looking for newer ways to connect and enhance learning for undergraduate students. He decided to experiment with the social media network Twitter in his operations management course to involve students with the topics he was teaching in class. The goal, he says, “was to ultimately make operations a part of students’ daily lives.”
With such a large class, it was difficult for Jha to make personal connections with all of his students and hard to ensure that students were actively engaged during lectures. To combat these difficulties, he chose to develop a series of assignments through a medium that was relatable and helpful. The assignments allowed students to ask meaningful questions when time would not allow during lectures or if students were simply too shy to raise their hands. In addition, it served as a way for Jha to link class discussion to practical college life environments. His assignments consisted of having students “tweet” about their observations of daily supply chain management or other operations.
Jha choose to use Twitter rather than other social media networks such as Facebook because Twitter allowed for Jha to capture his students in way that did not force them to share their personal lives with their professor in order to gain extra points. Twitter was instead used to get to know students in a professional manner, but through a technological tool that many Eller students already had and used. As a result, Jha saw an increase in student interest and involvement during class lectures.
Jha measured the effectiveness of the Twitter assignments and found that 80 percent of his students became followers of Jha’s class on Twitter, and of those individuals, 74 percent believed it was both valuable and beneficial to understanding the course material. In addition, grades were significantly higher in the spring of 2009 compared to fall 2009, when Twitter was not made available to students.
Jha says he believes in finding innovative ways to retain students and encourage participation. Since students strongly rely on technology, and it is a major aspect of students’ daily lives, he considers it one of the best ways to reach individuals and provide them an opportunity to better understand the subject. He is continuing his commitment to combining technology with social networking to spark interest and demonstrate how the material being taught is applicable to students’ everyday lives.