When we think of social media tools that may be useful in the realm of eLearning, Twitter is probably the last one that springs to mind. Its reduced character count posts may be ideal for quick social interactions, but how can eLearning professionals use them to engage and enlighten their audience?
The truth is that Twitter is one of the most powerful social media and can be a great tool not only for social learning, but also for building an effective online presence as an eLearning professional. But are there any tips and tricks you need to know before you dive into the Twitter ocean? In this article, I will reveal 16 golden rules that eLearning professionals should follow when join Twitter.
- Introduce yourself properly.
Once you set up your Twitter account, as an eLearning professional, you need to write a short bio that will inform your fellow Twitters who you are and what you are interested in. Be concise; after all, Twitter is a social medium that adores personal expression using as few words as possible. If you are wondering whether you should use an avatar or a photo for your Twitter profile image, keep in mind that photos are more personal and thus more engaging. Finally, also consider adding to your profile a link to your LinkedIn account.
- Be selective about whom you follow.
Undoubtedly, you may want to have as many Twitter followers as possible. But apart from following the right people, some of whom you will find from bios and tweets that interest you, do not follow back everyone who follows you. This has nothing to do with being snobbish; rather, it protects you from irrelevant Twitter information overload. Follow only accounts that offer you material you find valuable and avoid following people who tweet more often than you can handle, for instance, let’s say more than 4 tweets a day. Don’t worry if you don’t get enough connections; people who think that your Twitter feed is of value will find you sooner or later.
- Join Twitter discussions.
To make the best out your Twitter experience as an eLearning professional, you must take advantage of its conversational nature. Don’t just wander around looking for people to connect; contribute your eLearning insight to Twitter exchanges that interest you, ask questions or just retweet the most successful statements and support them by sharing them within your own network. Encourage your learners to join online discussions with you, and don’t forget to always use the appropriate hashtags, in order to keep the conversation on track.
- Build your network of eLearning professionals.
There are a myriad of eLearning professionals with Twitter profiles, which gives you the opportunity to build a network of contacts and potential collaborators who may be able to help you create eLearning courses in the future. For example, you can find eLearning content developers and subject matter experts who you may need to call upon for an upcoming project, or even build a business relationship with a graphic designer who has a project you might be interested in. Twitter is, by nature, a networking tool. So, why not use it to create a network of like-minded eLearning professionals who can help you develop more powerful online courses and keep you in the loop when new jobs are available? Use Twitter to track both those you are personally interested in and those who may be the most influential. Following and connecting with other eLearning professionals can reinforce your eLearning network and help you discover new eLearning blogs, websites and other eLearning trends. It is also a great way to exchange ideas, concerns, as well as eLearning design and development tips and tricks, so do not hesitate to interact with your colleagues as often as possible.
- Create an eLearning community for your learners.
The biggest value of social media is that they facilitate community building and Twitter can do so successfully to the advantage of your learners. Reach your learners who already have Twitter accounts and encourage the rest of them to create their own. Use your Twitter feed to get them involved by asking them to reflect on what they are learning and share their thoughts, questions, concerns, as well as any relevant information, with others. This way, you will engage your audience and take advantage of Twitter as one of the greatest tools for social learning, which, without doubt, enhances every eLearning experience.
- Follow the subject matter experts.
Following your subject matter experts and encouraging your audience to follow them as well, will not only help your learners to get additional information about your eLearning course, but also offers you tweeting material. Incorporating subject matter tweets into your Twitter feed will motivate your audience to ask questions and keep the conversation in the virtual classroom going, even after the eLearning course is over. Furthermore, you can use their tweets as an indicator of whether they have understood the eLearning content. This provides you with valuable feedback about the effectiveness of your eLearning course.
- Re-tweet from subject matter experts.
Twitter is a treasure trove of eLearning insights and advice. It is filled with subject matter experts and eLearning professionals who know a great deal about their field and are happy to share their knowledge. Why not take full advantage of their experience and expertise by re-tweeting their posts and sharing them with your learner network. For example, if a subject matter expert tweets about a new article that your learners might benefit from or a tip that they would like to share, then re-tweet it to give your audience the opportunity to expand their knowledge base. It might even spark greater interest in the topic and encourage them to go seeking answers on their own.
- Encourage online collaboration with Twitter hashtags.
It seems as though Twitter hashtags are virtually everywhere. Even television programs and magazine ads now feature hashtags that are used to quickly find a topic in the Twitter-verse. eLearning professionals can use these hashtags to their advantage, as well. Twitter hashtags are an invaluable social learning tool. Using eLearning Twitter hashtags is a great way to discover new eLearning trends, as well as to provide your learners with the latest information about an eLearning topic that might be particularly useful to them. You can also create your own eLearning hashtags, such as a hashtag related to your eLearning course. In this case, make sure that each hashtag you create is unique and short, so it allows space for the rest of 140 characters, which Twitter limits you to use for every tweet. Create a hashtag as a point of reference each time your learners communicate with one another, provide feedback and discuss key ideas that center around a specific subject. By doing so, your learners can see all tweets connected to that hashtag and offer their own thoughts on the topic, so that they can become an active and integral part of the eLearning community you have created.
- Create activities that center on hashtag-based research.
Hashtags can also help learners carry out research for upcoming assignments or assessments. For example, if learners want to know more about a particular idea, they can do a Twitter search by using a hashtag, phrase or keyword to immediately view ongoing conversations about the subject. In addition, they are also able to see if any links to online videos or webinars have been tweeted or if any other Twitter users have shared ideas or insights about the topic in the past.
- Spark discussion using Twitter chat sessions.
Schedule weekly or monthly Twitter chats with hashtags. Simply create a hashtag, let your Twitter followers know when the chat will be held, and then host a lively debate on the hashtag’s page. This allows you to reach out to your learners, boost peer collaboration, and offer support for those who may have questions or concerns that need to be addressed promptly. Create an assignment that centers on weekly Twitter posts that test user knowledge and spark discussion among your online learners. Students can chat with other students online to benefit from the experience and skills or to improve their understanding of the subject matter. If you are holding regular Twitter chats, remember that consistency is key. Stick to a set time and try to develop some ground rules that can keep the chat on track.
- Create Twitter-based assessments.
Twitter can also be used as an assessment tool. You can ask your learners to reflect upon the subject matter or create a brief summary of what they have learned during the lesson to test their knowledge. Twitter forces them to be concise and clear with their responses. Rather than summing up the concepts in a lengthy essay, they have just a handful of characters to convey their thoughts and ideas, which means that they must fully comprehend the subject matter in order to be able to effectively communicate the key takeaways of the lesson.
- Create links to eLearning videos and articles.
Twitter may have a limited character count, but that makes it ideal for linking to eLearning videos and articles that your learners may find helpful. There are also sites that shorten URLs, so that you can save your characters for a brief description of what they’ll find in the link. Twitter offers a highly effective way to create eLearning activities and use videos and other online resources as supplementary learning aids for your learners. For example, you can ask learners to read an article or watch a video then post their thoughts about the subject matter, or encourage them to post a question each week that improves their comprehension of the topic. This also gives other learners the opportunity to share what they have learned and to gain an in depth understanding of core ideas and concepts of the lesson.
- Keep learners updated about upcoming events and activities.
Rather than sending out emails or posting events in your eLearning course, you can use Twitter to keep your learners updated on important events, assignment deadlines and assessment dates. Learners are more likely to actually read these important updates, as well, given that they probably access Twitter more often than the eLearning course. If you are holding a webinar at the end of the month, for example, you can let them know within a matter of minutes, and probably reach more learners in the process. Chances are that your learners are going to be on Twitter or other social media sites more often than they are logged into the eLearning course platform, so reaching out to them via this avenue is practical and effective. You can also send out notifications for important world or industry-specific events that they may need to know about, such as upcoming trade shows or world events that relate to the subject matter or have an impact upon the industry as a whole.
- Tweet news and trends that serve as examples of real world application of your eLearning course material.
Posting about current trends and news also gives you the opportunity to tie real world subjects into your online course. For example, if your eLearning course pertains to business management and you post an article about an upcoming merger, your learners can instantly see how the online content of your eLearning course links to real world benefits and applications.
- Create Twitter backchannels during webinars or live training events.
Create a Twitter backchannel for your eLearning course, webinar or live training event where learners can hold a discussion and share their opinions with their peers. This also gives instructors and facilitators the chance to see what learners are thinking and to get a clear idea of whether they are actually absorbing the information or if further clarification is needed. For instance, learners can access the backchannel Twitter chat via the hashtag to ask questions about a specific topic or to share personal experiences that may benefit their peers.
- Be consistent.
As it happens with all social media, in order to establish an effective online presence, you need not only to be there, but also to consistently take advantage of what they have to offer you. Log in, tweet and retweet at least once a day and preferably twice. This will help you not only keep track without losing valuable Twitter news, but also reminds your fellow Twitters that you are there because you have something interesting to say. Of course, you must not tweet just for the sake of tweeting; instead, try to share meaningful material and comment on current eLearning developments and eLearning trends.
Twitter gives eLearning professionals the ability to engage their learners and provide them with valuable learning resources, even if they have no prior experience with social networking platforms. It also permits them to reach a wider learning audience and to enhance the eLearning experience of learners who may be distracted, pressed for time, or unable to attend other type of synchronous elearning events.
Now that you know all the tips that this Twitter guide has to offer you, you might want to learn more about the role that social media play in your field. Read the article 12 Golden Social Media Rules For eLearning Professionals and find out how to make your social media presence not only effective, but genuinely outstanding.Author: Christopher Pappas