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The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Twitter and elearning can co-exist

Twitter’s all the rage.  Some people love it.  Some people hate it.  But many people really don’t know much about it or don’t do much with it.

I’ll have to admit, I have mixed feelings about Twitter (and much of the other social media).  On one hand, I really love to play around with all of the new social media tools and am excited about what’s going on and the potential for learning.  On the other hand, much of their value is exaggerated.  A lot of this social media stuff can be distracting and a waste of time.  But that’s not so much the fault of the social media tools as much as it is their newness and not quite knowing what to do with all of the them and the content they create.

For me it’s all about context.  I am bombarded by so much info that I tend to tune out quite a bit.  I like to focus on the more practical information that I can use.  For example, the Articulate twitter page is a good resource for Articulate users since it provides news, tutorials, and links to helpful tips and tricks. 

While I do follow people, I tend to focus on topics and keywords.  This helps me get more pointed information and not be bombarded by a bored tweep who’s retweeting and posting links every 5 minutes. You know who you are. 🙂

With all that said, Twitter is a useful tool.  It can also be incorporated into your elearning courses.  Today I’d like to share a few ideas to whet your appetite.  However before I share some tips, it’s probably a good idea to explain some Twitter basics.  So I asked Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer to share some of his insights regarding Twitter.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer explains Twitter

Click here to watch Dr. Werner’s presentation.

In addition to Dr. Werner’s brilliant insights, here are some additional ideas about how to use Twitter.

Follow the Subject Matter Expert

Suppose you’re doing a course on organizational leadership.  Inevitably, some learners will have questions of the subject matter expert (SME).  You could incorporate a subject matter tweet that lets people ask questions or follow the SME after the course is complete.  Consider it a post-course consulting tool.  It also humanizes the course and makes it seem more personal, which can contribute to its perceived value.

Here’s another idea for those in the education world.  Create a twitter account for a famous person who represents the topic you teach.  Then have the students follow the tweets.  For example, it would be fascinating to read the tweets of someone like John Adams responding to some of the debate in Washington D.C. today.  Or keep the tweets in context to the historical character’s time.  Perhaps you can teach about the D-Day invasion via the tweets of a soldier crossing the channel and storming the beach at Normandy.  You could even include media using sites like Twitvid.  What a great way to make history come alive!

Another angle is to have each student represent a historical character and then they have to tweet and follow the other student characters of the time.  Based on their tweets, it would be a great way to assess their level of understanding of the subject you’re teaching.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - John Adams Twitter page

Follow the Subject

You can assign and follow tweets via a hashtag.  What you do is something like this:

I look forward to September and watching the Seattle #Seahawks play.

Someone tracking #Seahawks can now see my tweet.  If you wanted people who take your course to continue the conversation or keep on top of a particular subject, then use a hashtag. 

Let’s say you were teaching a course on fire safety.  The hashtag could be #fs or #fire.  Then anyone can track the hashtag and stay up on the latest info.  Of course you want something that is both somewhat unique and short so you don’t take up all of your characters.

Once you have a course hashtag, you can use Twitter to provide additional content after the course.  You can also use it to get your learners to respond and provide feedback.  They could add some thoughts or tips that they learned.  They could also go back to their jobs, apply the course information, and then comment on how it worked for them.  This helps you make adjustments to the course content and it’s a good way to get an extra level of evaluation that’s more than the standard “smile sheet.”

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Example of a Twitter hashtag

Build a Community

There’s no reason why you couldn’t use Twitter to help facilitate a community of practice.  The real value in social media is in community building where you’re able to connect people who share similar interests and get them to exchange ideas.  And Twitter is great for that.

Have the learners use Twitter to share their thoughts.  For example, instead of giving them an assessment, make the assessment their Twitter stream.  They need to reflect on what they’re learning in the course and then share that with others.

Another way to get them involved is to have them share links and other information relevant to what they’ve learned.  Even if the course content is proprietary, there’s no reason why they couldn’t go out and look for other thought leaders or groups in the same industry to build on what they’re learning in your course.

For example, if I were teaching on the Truth in Lending Act, I’d have them look for some news stories about lending relevant to the Truth in Lending Act.  Or perhaps have them do some research on why we have a Truth in Lending Act.  Or share their thoughts on what would happen if there was no Truth in Lending Act.

To build the community use hashtags or sign up for a site like Twibes whe
re you can create communities around mutual interest.  Two things to consider.  First, not everyone will jump on the community bandwagon.  That’s fine, you only need a few enthusiastic learners.  Secondly, Twitter kind of started as a microblogging tool.  If you want better organized conversation it might not be the best tool to use.  In that case, you could look at a chat application or a forum where you could have threaded comments.  They tend to be easier to follow.

Those are just a few ways you can use Twitter.  Of course, this doesn’t work for everybody.  Some of you are behind corporate firewalls and don’t have access to Twitter.  However, if you do have access to Twitter (or an enterprise equivalent) then these tips might come in handy.  If not, then change Twitter to wiki or some other social media tool you do have access to and see if these ideas work for you.

What are some other ways that you can think of blending Twitter with your elearning courses? Share your thoughts by clicking on the comments link.

*The free Twitter icons came from Gopal Raju at ProductiveDreams.

**Dr. Werner’s avatar came from AMC’s


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50 responses to “Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning”

Additional ideas

Use it to send out FAQs. Include common questions that arise in training.

If the course involves teaching software/software sims, screenshots of the software can also be sent via Twitter

Use it to send updates to the content. For example, changes in the Truth in Lending rules.

On the designers end, it can also be used for all levels of evaluation. Whether it is identifying “reaction” to the course or identifying “learning,” “behavior” or “results.”

This is good information Tom. Like anything else social media related, Facebook, Twitter, etc, you can definitely become distracted and easily overwhelmed in today’s information age. You have to definitely be deliberate and intentional in how you approach every tool and how it relates to your goals. I definitely see the value in Twitter as a networking and research tool and recommend that people use applications like Tweetdeck or Seesmic Desktop. They allowing to to track multiple keyword searches at once and are more efficient than trying to use just the web based version. My .02.

Good stuff!


Twitter is a perfect learning tool. It’s a quick and easy way to get introduced to new ideas and resources by credible people.
It overwhelmed me at first, so I had to make the decision to use Twitter only as a learning tool, and not as a communication tool for “friends.” That’s what Facebook is for!

The concept of Twitter is neat, in that it is so valuable, and that the value is created and distributed by us!

August 4th, 2009

I certainly am thinking of using this social appilcation in the classroom. One idea is to have students create thier own Twitter account and only have them follow news groups, news channels, and news updates. Have them choose a story or tweet from one of their followers and analyze it. They can find stories and share what they have found with others. This would only be used for learning resources (current events) and research.

Good post. Thanks. Additional thoughts:

I agree, Twitter, by itself–with no other supporting technology other than “twitter web,” can be a waste of time. However, Twitter with other supporting tools that helps with filtering and grouping can be a great learning support tool. For example:

o Use a client application, like Tweetdeck, to set up groups representing training personalities, hashtags, keywords and “friends”. (The latter being the handful of Tweeps you regularly exchange tweets with, or whom you’ve met at a conference of live meeting.)

o Set up an RSS folder in your favorite news reader that feeds tweets from key learning tweeps and discussions.

[…] wrote a blog post today about how to leverage Twitter in your learning endeavors: Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning. The infamous Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer even chimed in on how he uses […]

August 4th, 2009

Who knew Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer was a fan of Emo Philips? Dr. Oppelbaumer, you’ve always been a mentor, but now I believe you’re my soulmate. By the way, how do I get my HR director to approve Twitter for job seperations? Brilliant, just brilliant.

Great info. i was worried I had to wait till next April 01 for Dr. Oppelbaumer

I like the creative ideas. The German guy is funny. I need to try twitter now that I know how to use it.

August 4th, 2009

I’m commenting about the email I sent to see if you got my twitter notice. Love the blog and gald to see the good doctor is back to share some wise words.

Loved the Doctor’s presentation.

Suggestion for Tom: an article about elearning with voice but without animation, like the Doctor’s. Our material has to have no animation due to technical limitations.

This is fantastic! My son is working on creating a mythical civilization as part of his school project. The JohnAdam’s example would be a great idea to incorporate and actually check out the usefulness of this tool. Thanks again for a wonderful post.

[…] I stumbled upon a post titled Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning. Four ideas (maybe more if you look also at the comments of this post) how to leverage Twitter in a […]

I think I will follow Mr. Adams now. And thanks for the tips and tricks.

Tom thank you for your help and all the valuable information shared with us!!!


[…] Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning – The Rapid eLearning Blog […]

Thanks for sharing such informative posting on Twitter.

[…] Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning – The Rapid eLearning Blog […]

August 13th, 2009

Wow Tom, I follow your blogs from time to time and evertime I am dazzled about your insights. About using the presenter tools in such a great way.

In your abilities to use design ideas in such an attractive way (looks simple, but it is not). Wow, whish we had dr. Oppelbaumer in our company. Big complements Tom!

Dr. Opplebaumer is truly insightful. Most tweets are on par with this (actual) missive from an associate: “Cat just ran through the house puking. I hope it doesn’t stain.”

I needed to know that.

There are some excellent videos on You Tube showing how Twitter is being used in an educational context. – this is from UT Dallas and is very interesting. It’s 5 minutes long and shows how it is being used in a classroom environment to facilitate discussion and group thinking.

You can also think about using an app like twitterfall as a way to generate questions and faciliate discussion in a much larger group setting. It is especially powerful at conferences.

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I want to thank you for the amazing work you do to educate us to be better e-Learners professionals, and Thank you for sharing your book.

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[…] Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning » The Rapid eLearning Blog Posted on January 26, 2010 by mmulcrone Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning » The Rapid eLearning Blog […]

I agree, Twitter is a great way to build community and grow your network. It is important to share links and information of value and retweet others that do the same.


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[…] Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning […]

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by FollowMeTools: Please RT: Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning – The Rapid …: I’ll have to admit, ..

April 21st, 2010

Вот что-то подобное у меня уже полгода из головы не выходит!

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September 18th, 2011

Very informative post Tom; I just started taking classes in instructional design and learning all aspect of creating effective learning environment. I really found this post on incorporating Social Media into elearning most helpful. Especially because It actually tells why and when to add social media into an exercise. In today world people are so quick to jump on the social media ban wagon without totally understanding how to use these tools effectively. It almost seems like they think that by saying I’m using twitter or Facebook that this good enough. I really want to expand my knowledge using social media in elearning because I do think this is a great way to grab your audience and can be used as another avenue to enhance the learning. The information you provided definitely helped.

@Simona: hope you enjoy the ID classes and get to practice applying the many things you’ll learn.

[…] Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning (by Tom Kuhlmann) […]

[…] Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning » The Rapid eLearning Blog Build a Community Once you have a course hashtag, you can use Twitter to provide additional content after the course. […]

[…] Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning » The Rapid eLearning Blog […]

[…] Practical Ideas for using Twitter in E-learning.  The Rapid E-Learning Blog.  Retrieved from: Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

[…] Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning Twitter’s all the rage. Some people love it. Some people hate it. But many people really don’t know much about it or don’t do much with it. I’ll have to admit, I have mixed feelings about Twitter (and much of the other social media). On one hand, I really love to play around with all of the new social media tools and am excited about what’s going on and the potential for learning. The Ultimate Guide To Using Twitter In Education Topics: <b>adoption </b>, <b>communication </b>, <b>featured </b>, <b>guardian </b>, <b>infographic </b>, <b>Social Media </b>, <b>tweeps </b>, <b>tweets </b>, <b>twitter </b>, <b>ultimate guide </b> Twitter seems to be here to stay. As one of the most popular ways for teachers, students, and the general public to communicate, it’s becoming a must-have tool in almost every teacher’s toolbox. However, numerous recent studies have shown that education in general has been slow to adopt social media. In an effort to speed up this adoption process, below you’ll find a boatload of resources on the past, present, and future of Twitter in education as well as some helpful guides to using the tool in the classroom. This guide is by no means exhaustive and is meant to be added to on a regular basis. Twitter in the Classroom […]