7 Ways Twitter Can Be a Powerful Educational Tool for Online Students

Twitter has made it possible to keep up with your favorite celebrities, learn about breaking news, and share your thoughts with the world—all in 140 characters or less. But have you ever considered using the site as a way to learn more about your degree program and advance in your career?

While it’s not the most conventional tool for online learning, Twitter can actually help you to become more actively involved in your studies and, as an added bonus, you may actually have quite a bit of fun while doing it. Here are some of the easiest and most productive ways to put Twitter to use in your online courses and beyond.

Connect with professionals in your field.

There are thousands of high-profile people in every industry on Twitter, so no matter what you’re studying there’s likely to be someone who knows quite a bit about it with a Twitter profile. Follow them to read updates about the biggest and most important issues in the field at the moment and to learn more about their individual experience working in that field. If you’re lucky, there may also be big publications or organizations in your area of interest that have Twitter accounts, which can also be an invaluable source of up-to-date information, news and opinion.

Ask an expert.

What’s great about Twitter, however, is that you can not only read tweets from other professionals, but you can also interact with them. Whether it’s a simple retweet, asking a question, or seeking out some career advice, experts in these fields can help you better understand your coursework and what it means to work as a professional in a given area of study.

Keep in mind that you may not always get a response, but often those who are passionate about their field of study are happy to share that passion with students and will be happy to ensure you better understand a topic, share their point of view, or find the very best, latest information.

Conduct research.

Depending on the nature of your course, Twitter can be a really helpful tool for research. You can use it to obtain live data about news events or use it as a place for crowdsourcing answers to research queries you may have, whether conducting your own surveys or looking for places to investigate further. You could also use examples of interactions on Twitter to illustrate important points about media, social issues, or a wide range of other topics. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to score an interview with an expert on Twitter, which can be an excellent primary source for some kinds of writing assignments.

Remember, however, citing your sources is still important even if you’re using Twitter. If you plan to cite a tweet directly, learn the appropriate formatting for MLA and APA.

Join the discussion.

Every week there are dozens of live chats that occur on Twitter (you can find a listing of many of them here). Most focus on a specific field or area of interest and can be a great way to learn more about the subject of your course or to prepare you to work in the field, if that’s your eventual aim. Don’t be afraid to add your own comments or questions to the discussion—it’s a great way to find out more about topics that you find interesting and to network with professionals in the field.

Engage with your classmates.

While Blackboard offers a range of ways to stay connected with your classmates, Twitter is another option to get in touch with other students. You can use Twitter as a way to share notes, help with studying, or even to just vent your frustrations. Try creating your own study session hashtag for group work and keep your classmate connections organized through a class-based list (you can create one for each of your courses if you find it to be helpful).

Practice writing.

Nothing will make you careful about what you say and how you say it like a public forum (at least, if you’re not posting anonymously), and Twitter has that to offer in spades. Additionally, the limit on characters will force you to be concise and to the point, both excellent skills to hone for your academic and professional writing. If that’s not enough, you can also participate in Twitter challenges, writing stories or poems in a tweet.

Live tweet class.

Want a different way to take notes? Try live tweeting your course lectures. This will help you to focus on the really important points being made and will organize them for you later, especially if you add a unique hashtag that will make it easy to find information from a particular session or use a tool like Storify. You can also use Twitter as a way to jot down any questions you have during class and even send them directly to your professor or classmates.

There are numerous ways to use Twitter not just to stay social but also to learn. Even better, building a strong Twitter network of professionals and educators can be invaluable when you graduate and are looking for guidance as a newbie in your career field.