Twitter is customer service for students, according to Andrew Mienaltowski, a psychology professor at WKU.
Known as Dr. M’ski, Mienaltowski has taken advantage of the micro-blogging site and is using it as a another avenue to communicate with his students.
Mienaltowski teaches intro to psychology, a class that averages nearly 200 students a semester. He said that in the past, he would send emails to get in touch with students who had missed a week of class, asking if they needed help catching up, but often wouldn’t get a response. Rather than assume they didn’t care, he said he realized students simply weren’t checking their email.
Though he still emails and posts all of his class announcements on Blackboard, students get Twitter updates to their smart phones and can send and receive tweets as quickly as they would a text message.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to give students my phone number, but it’s the next best thing,” he said.
Twitter allows Mienaltowski to answer questions students have while working on their homework or studying the night before an exam.
The rapidity of Twitter helps him answer their questions more quickly than he would have previously. He said Twitter has dramatically improved communication with his students, especially freshmen, who are often intimidated by the idea of approaching a professor with questions.
“Freshmen are adjusting to life here at school, and by using Twitter, you are reminding them of things that they may not be used to keeping track of,” he said. “When I respond, they know that they are not an afterthought, that I am concerned with how they are doing outside of the class, and it lines up with how they were treated in high school and helps with the transition.”
Twitter also gives him better control of his classroom, he said.
Students will often tweet him if there is something disruptive going on in the lecture hall, and when he receives it on his phone, he is able to handle the situation almost immediately.
Mienaltowski believes faculty don’t give students enough credit for their ability to use technology appropriately in the classroom. He said just because students are in class doesn’t mean their world stops. He also believes that, in some classes, having the ability to use the Internet makes students more able to participate in class discussions.
Hendersonville, Tenn., sophomore Melinda Sterling said Twitter has been a beneficial way to communicate Dr. M’ski, especially for self-described Twitter addicts like herself.
“Twitter makes him a little bit more approachable as a professor, especially if it’s a simple question about a due date or even clearing up confusion on specific topics,” Sterling said. “I was having issues with some of my study board credits, and I tweeted him my situation. He replied almost immediately with a solution and told me not to worry — ‘We’ll get it sorted out.’”
Louisville freshman Rachel Craven said the most beneficial thing about having a professor who tweets are the reminders about assignments and the speed she can get a response to her questions.
“If I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to send an email or check Blackboard, I can always just pull out my phone while I’m on the go and send him a quick tweet,” Cravens said.