Just over a year ago I sent a message to the website-info-mgt JISCMail list in which I commented how I had noticed that “several unis promoted a Freshers Week Twitter tag.  I came across #HelloKent, #UoNFreshers, #HelloBrum, #sussexfreshers, #bcufeshers and (possibly) #imoxfordbrookes“. In light of my observations I subsequently used the Twubs Twitter archiving service to set up archives of tweets for the hashtags #HelloKent, #UoNFreshers, #HelloBrum, #sussexfreshers and #bcufreshers.

Fast forward a year and yesterday I came across a tweet from @Jayconsulting which informed me that:

Freshers advice offered via Twitter | News | Times Higher Education http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/freshers-advice-offered-via-twitter/2007585.article#.UkA0mo8ZgZA.twitter …

The article in the Times Higher, entitled Freshers advice offered via Twitter describes how “The National Union of Students is hosting its first-ever Twitter question and answer sessions, offering first years advice on a range of topics” and went on to explain how “The Freshers Survival support sessions will run until Friday, tackling a different issue each day, with experts dishing out advice to thousands of new undergraduates”.

The changes in the higher education sector from when I was a student in the 1970s are not just about the technology, however. I suspect in those days if the technology had been available there would have been a more political aspects to the discussions, whereas in the twenty-first century we find that “Founder of the financial advice forum MoneySavingExpert.com, Martin Lewis, will be on hand to offer tips on budgeting (Thursday), while relationship expert Tracey Cox will advise on social life, sex and relationships (Friday)“!

Twubs archive for '#fresherssurvival' tweetsBut how will this week’s tweet chats develop? Will students actively participate in the discussions about budgeting, sex and relationships? Will commercial companies sport the marketing opportunities which use of this hashtag may provide? Or perhaps evangelical Christians Will use modern technology to provide an opportunity to provide a Christian message about sex and relationships.

A year ago in my message on the website-info-mtg list I went on to say that “I’d be interested in hearing how effective it may have been.  Also whether there were any crossovers with other uses of the tags e.g. did #HelloKent attract tourists visiting the garden of England; did #HelloBrum attract traffic from freshers at the other Birmingham universities; etc?

I’ve noticed that last year’s hashtags still seem to be in use, as can be seen from the archive of the #hellokent hashtag, illustrated below.

Twubs archive for the '#hellokent' hashtagIn order to be able to observe use of the #FreshersSurvival hashtag I have recently set up a Twubs archive for the tag. A snapshot of the archive is also illustrated.

Some questions which analysis of such archives over time may help to answer:

  • Is use of Twitter growing, and will such trends help to inform institutional policy decisions on further use of Twitter?
  • Are there any general issues which sentiment analysis of the tweets might detect which may lead to appropriate actions?
  • What success criteria might be established for such use of Twitter?
  • Will it be possible to justify the investment in providing the infrastructure surrounding such use of Twitter (e.g. the experts who respond to discussions and questions) ?
  • Are students aware hat there tweets may be analysed?
  • Should institutions be willing to analyse such Twitter archives?

Any thoughts on these questions or other issues which such informal use of Twitter by students may raise?