May 17 2012

OnlineCollege.Org: Suggestions for Implementing Twitter in Live Chat Discussions

Posted by Rick Ivy at 3:21 PM blogger Melissa Venable, PhD, recently published an extensive white paper on the use of Twitter for conducting both synchronous and a-synchronous course discussions. The pdf is available to download for free at the site's Online College Research section:

The twenty-three page document gives useful suggestions for using Twitter as either a supplemental communication tool or a primary mode of course discussion. Starting from the premise that online discussions can be improved, Venable makes a valid case for some of the weaknesses of traditional a-synchronous online learning utilizing a threaded discussion format. These weaknesses are as follows: many student responses refer directly to the instructor's question and overlap with other student responses creating a "disjointed" and somewhat unnatural conversation (Venable, 2012, p. 2); instructor questions quite often do not yield a meaningful discussion because students respond with the intention to fulfill a requirement, giving what they believe is the "right" answer, thus losing some of the nuance that a deep and spontaneous classroom discussion can achieve; in order to maintain a consistent schedule, threaded discussions often impose "unnatural requirements" on students requiring them to post a response by one specific date and a follow-up question to a student several days later, thus forcing students to ask questions instead of allowing the discussion to happen on its own accord (Venable, 2012, p. 2).

As an alternative Venable suggests some possible advantages for using Twitter as a tool for live chat discussions and also gives some great examples of how to run a Twitter chat. Two very good reasons for considering Twitter for course discussions are 1.) Twitter exists outside any Learning Management System (LMS) and therefore does not force students to log-in and participate on a desktop computer as many of the more restrictive LMS environments require. This becomes a creative potential when one imagines a course conversation revolving around a live event that exists at a time and place when many students might not be able to participate on any device other than their smart phone or tablet. Another advantage is that instructors who participate in social media can become behavioral role models for their students, teaching by example the most appropriate and skillful ways to communicate to their peers.

In order to conduct a live chat using Twitter, Venable suggests instructors do the following: create a short and easy to remember hashtag for the discussion; decide on a topic and set specific goals for the discussion; and finally develop open-ended questions that will inspire student discussion.

Venable also suggests numerous supplemental software tools that work in tandem with Twitter to enhance and increase the social media tool's potential for online learning. Additionally, she gives suggestions for the types of discussions one might conduct using Twitter and ways that the social media tool can enhance a course. Among these were a discussion of an article or perhaps chapters of a text; an outside-of-class discussion on a particular topic relevant but perhaps not central to the course; and using Twitter for quick updates and important announcements about class activities and assignments.


Venable, M. (2012). Social media in online education: Implementing live Twitter chat discussion sessions. Accessed from



Kathy wrote on 05/18/1211:40 AM

Very interesting. The accessibility by mobile device could definitely increase the quantity of feedback (although limited by character requirements).
manuel neuer

manuel neuer wrote on 06/24/127:12 AM

Very interesting. The accessibility by mobile device could definitely increase the quantity of feedback

Maysam wrote on 07/02/123:16 AM

While serving 32 years with the US Army, I began loniokg into online education options. I quickly found out where all the used car, Fuller Brush, and Encyclopedia Salesmen have been hiding. The few questions I had were never properly answered or the answer was never to be given. I began contacting HR managers of medium to large corporations asking them to provide me with their education and skill requirements for various IT and staff positions. One hiring manager required all applicants provide a copy of a college transcript be provided. I inquired about this requirement. The manager stated while he personally had no issues with online degrees, the company had a few issues with new personnel not having properly accredited degrees for their positions. He did state the company did take in to account the applicant's previous work history and did place stock in the fact the applicant worked and completed their education at the same time, but were weary of certain online colleges and their courses.I have found through personal contact with employers and Human Resource Managers that many have postive view of degrees from online colleges. Provided the school has accrediation from a valid organization. Online post secondary education is here to stay, but one can help with the acceptance of that online degree. Keep to course that have to do with your current skills and career field/employment (if possible). If changing careers, you may want to check with potiential employers about what external career experience that would be acceptable. Since I was working in the IT field, was able to use my work experience, Continuing Education courses, certifications and my degree as combined leverage with potential employers. Many employers were impressed with the depth of knowledge and high level of skills, I could bring to the position. Some may require proof of the type and scope of courses completed or require completion of in house testing. If you are employed as customer service rep and want to change career as a Registered/Licensed Practicing Nurse with a online degree. You might find it very difficult to get an interview with an online degree.

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