Since the early days of Twitter, educators and early adopters of the platform have been experimenting and integrating Twitter into their classroom with the goal to improve communication and get students more engaged with course materials. However, because Twitter was not designed specifically for the classroom, including it in the lesson plan presented some challenges.
One of the research initiatives at the Social Media Lab over the last few years has been a project called, “Learning Analytics for the Social Media Age.” Learning analytics is “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.” The initiative has three primary goals to:
- examine and understand “How do social media networks influence educational models?”
- devise new theoretical and technical solutions that will help educators and researchers to study learning processes occurring in social media,
- provide educators and learners with analytical tools that will help them to determine whether their use of social media is beneficial to their teaching or learning.
Twitter Analytics Dashboard [Live Demo]
As part of this research initiative, we have developed an open-source Learning Analytics (LA) Dashboard to help educators who use Twitter in their teaching. The dashboard collects public tweets containing a hashtag designated to a class and then visualizes them in the form of various charts. The main goal is to help instructors look for evidence of learning-related interactions, such as posting questions to their peers, sharing resources, and engaging with other students. Instructors can also use the dashboard to get insights about what topics related to the class their students are discussing, and the sentiments they express about these topics. With such information in hand, instructor can course correct as necessary.
Instructions for Building a Twitter Learning Analytic Dashboard
To use the dashboard, simply download the installation package and install your own, locally-hosted version. The source code is freely available at gihub (distributed under GNU General Public License v3.0). As you will see, the dashboard requires setting up a unique Twitter hashtag for your course. The dashboard will then use the hashtag to ensure that only relevant tweets related to your course will be collected and analyzed. Once set up, you will have a web-based system to visualize and explore your classroom’s Twitter activities. Happy Tweeting (and teaching)!