Reflections on Week 3.3 – Twitter for Class Discussions – Unfit for Purpose

I want to make some observations on the use this week of Twitter for the Edinburgh MSc in e-Learning IDEL11 class discussions about core readings and topics. Obviously one purpose is to test a variety of tools and modalities of interaction for distance education purposes, so I will give my experience as a student in this case.

Twitter is a valuable “push” short messaging and trending platform. Due to the volume of material appearing on it, lack of archiving facilities, lack of search over long periods and lack of good clustering methods in most tools it is unsuited to discussions which by their nature are threaded and need linearity in reading posts from multiple participants. The tweeter should not assume the group members see every (or even most) tweets, and there is no confirmation of what they have and have not seen.

Shortened URLs are frequently applied by tools when tweets are posted, and this loses much valuable context for the citation or reference given.

Public accessibility and possibly permanent online availability and reposting by others of the tweets also may preclude argumentation more suited to a closed audience or group.

Seeking to use Twitter to follow 4 #tags on 3 MSc in e-Learing courses is impractical on most Twitter interfaces, including the official provided web site and mobile apps. I found only TweetDeck for Desktop as recommended for the Digital Cultures course (but not the mobile versions of TweetDeck) suitable for such uses… but that is disruptive via its new tweet arrival notification mechanism when trying to concentrate on other work.

My use of Twitter was also on low bandwidth and error prone 3G connections, and using small screen mobile devices, but I think my observations are valid even without that limitation.

I found the threaded discussion forums on WebCT much easier to follow while travelling, and the times at which they can be checked and inputs given can be managed better and more asynchronously.

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