Using Twitter as an evaluation tool

Social networking is playing an increasingly important role in learning and community engagement across our profession.  Recently, Brian Kelly, in his  UK Web Focus blog discussed the use of Twitter at events such as Online Information. He highlighted how it enabled delegates (and others) to take part in discussions around the various talks and presentations, enriching the experience. Incoming Vice President of CILIP, Phil Bradley, has offered instruction and suggestions via his weblog on how Twitter can be used by librarians and library services for publicising events, highlighting new resources and sharing best practice.

Earlier this year CILIP in Scotland offered a series of four half day courses on using Twitter as a professional development tool as part of our 2010 CPD programme.  SLIC and CILIPS use Scotlibraries, our shared Twitter channel, as an information alert and to supplement website information particularly with regard to advising the community about upcoming courses and events.

Both SLIC and CILIPS have been experimenting with the use of Twitter hashtags at some of our formal events over the past year.  One unexpected outcome has been that we’ve found Twitter to be an exceptionally effective mechanism for disseminating information and promoting discussion about events but as a formative evaluation tool during events.  The ability to group tweets by hashtag in this way has supplemented the more traditional post event evaluation  by offering  organisers a real time feedback mechanism with an option for intervention.

Our practice is changing to include a hashtag for each event in our 2011 CILIPS CPD programme. We intend to encourage participants to use Twitter as a formative evaluation tool as well as a discussion  mechanism so that organisers can  gauge the impact of the event as it progresses and use that information tactically to ensure we remain on course, on time and on message.

This also means that from 2011 we will endeavour to source venues which are wi-fi enabled to encourage real time discourse.  We’ll also issue event hashtag information to all delegates.  We’ll continue to use the summative evaluation techniques too of course but experience has demonstrated that real time tweets generate different and potentially useful information which allows us to  measure the impact of an event as it progresses and take action to improve it in real time too. Both sets of information can then be used to enhance the quality of our events.

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