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Twitter and other microblogging services are growing in non-official use in universities around the world – but as an educational tool, Twitter is quite rare. Researchers suggest these platforms offer useful capabilities that could complement, or even replace, dwindling face to face contact in class.
This month, a study into student adoption of Twitter as a study tool is being presented at the Australasian Conference on Information Systems (N. Saeed et al, 2012). While applications like Twitter are warmly embraced by some populations, elsewhere users are few and far between. This prompted a study into how differences in culture may affect Twitter use at uni.
The research included students from both an Australian and an American university, and uncovered adoption differences the researchers suspect originate in culture.
Likelihood of technology adoption is commonly measured by the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM): a validated and widely used framework for predicting technology use.
Participants of this study were enrolled in courses at university and encouraged to use Twitter during semester. After courses finished, the students completed a survey about Twitter use during study. Participants in the Australian sample were predominantly Chinese international students, so the study actually related to American and Chinese students specifically.
The Chinese students also proved more enthusiastic in adopting Twitter but the researchers noted their communications tended to be less conversational and more formal in nature. This was possibly linked to unfamiliarity with the application. Contrasted with this, American students were more innovative in organising use of Twitter for studies and it was suggested this reflects the different educational backgrounds each group possessed.
It was acknowledged that cultural measures were inferred only and not directly measured, that participation was voluntary and may have thereby biased data and that explicit monitoring during data collection had the potential to interfere with normal behaviours.
Despite these limitations, the findings demonstrate the importance of knowing how culture influences adoption of new technology, such as Twitter. Educational institutes can benefit from this insight by tailoring use of communication technology to the natural variations in student cultural background.
The Tale of Two Cultures: Difference in Technology Acceptance in Twitter Usage, N. Saeed et al, 2012, 23rd Australasian Conference on Information Systems.