Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success


  • Reynol Junco is a professor in the Department of Academic Development and Counseling at Lock Haven University. His research investigates the effects of social media on student development, engagement and success. C. Michael Elavsky is an assistant professor in the Department of Media Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. His research addresses a wide range of issues including media studies, new media, pedagogy, the cultural industries and music as cultural/political communication. Greg Heiberger is coordinator, advisor and instructor of Pre-Health Professional Programs in the Biology & Microbiology Department at South Dakota State University. His main research interests are innovative interventions which increase student engagement, success and retention.

Dr Reynol Junco, 104 Russell Hall, Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA 17745, USA. Email: rey.junco@gmail.com



Herein, we present data from two studies of Twitter usage in different postsecondary courses with the goal of analyzing the relationships surrounding student engagement and collaboration as they intersect learning outcomes. Study 1 was conducted with 125 students taking a first-year seminar course, half of who were required to use Twitter while the other half used Ning. Study 2 was conducted with 135 students taking a large lecture general education course where Twitter participation was voluntary. Faculty in Study 1 engaged with students on Twitter in activities based on an a priori theoretical model, while faculty in Study 2 only engaged students sporadically on the platform. Qualitative analyses of tweets and quantitative outcomes show that faculty participation on the platform, integration of Twitter into the course based on a theoretically driven pedagogical model and requiring students to use Twitter are essential components of improved outcomes.

Practitioner notes

What is already known about this topic

  • • Student use of social media is integrally related to how students engage the world.
  • • Little research exists on how social media use is linked to college student engagement in relation to academic outcomes.
  • • One study using a controlled design demonstrated a relationship between Twitter use and student engagement.

What this paper adds

  • • An empirical comparison of two ways in which Twitter was differently integrated into college courses.
  • • The utilization of quantitative and qualitative data to assess real-world academic outcomes related to Twitter use.
  • • Evidence-based best practices for using Twitter in educationally relevant and productive ways.

Implications for practice and/or policy

  • • If integrating Twitter in their courses, faculty should require and structure its use along educationally relevant criteria.
  • • To achieve the most effective results, faculty should have a theoretically driven pedagogical basis for incorporating Twitter.
  • • Faculty should actively engage with students on the platform to obtain maximum benefit.