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Exploring Engineering Students’ College Experiences Using Social Media Monitoring Tool Radian6

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Social Media and In-class Technology: Creating Active Learning Environments

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.615.1 - 25.615.19



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Paper Authors


Xin Chen Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Xin Chen is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses on social media analytics in the context of engineering education and engineering education research, as well as web personalization.

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Mihaela Vorvoreanu Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Krishna Madhavan Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Exploring Engineering and Technology College Students’ Experiences Using Social Media Analytics ToolsMaintaining the U.S. scientific and technical talent pool has been a top priority in highereducation. Several research efforts are aimed at increasing engineering and technology collegestudents’ retention and academic success. Engineering and technology educators hope to fosterexciting and inspiring educational experiences for engineering and technology students.However, issues such as declining interest, poor preparedness, low retention rates, and lack ofdiversity still largely exist in engineering and technology education ("Rising Above theGathering Storm" Committee, 2010). In this paper, we explore engineering and technologystudents’ college experiences from a unique angle—we look at students’ experiences byanalyzing public discourse on popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs andforums. We address the following research questions: (1) What can social media public discoursetell us about engineering and technology college students’ experiences? (2) What patterns,common themes or issues can we identify from their experiences that could inform future effortsin student retention and academic success?The motivation for analyzing public discourse on social media sites is that online conversationsoccur in an informal setting where people express themselves more freely. The tremendousamount of publicly available, yet unexplored data may contain insights into college students’experiences. One challenge we are facing for analyzing this data is that the structure and shape ofthe public discourse online is hidden by formatted user interfaces (Madria, Bhowmick, Ng, &Lim, 1999; Smith, 1999). Meanwhile, with millions of new posts every day, it is difficult tointerpret all the data and identify patterns. However, social media analytics tools such as Radian6(, Visible Intelligence (, and NodeXL( have been developed for researchers and business professionals touncover relationships and trends in social media content. Based on techniques such as datacrawling, data clustering, network analysis and visualization, these tools provide functionalitiessuch as presenting tag clouds of public conversations on certain topics or keywords; monitoringtrends of people’s sentiments on certain events; and mapping and measuring relationships andflows between people, groups, and organizations. We investigate and compare the varyingresults that different tools yield. We then chart and characterize what these tools tell us aboutengineering and technology students’ college experiences.Insights from open, informal social media discourse can complement existing survey andinterview research to provide educators richer foundations for decision-making. The novel,exploratory method and the analysis tools we employ here demonstrate new possibilities inengineering education research.Madria, S. K., Bhowmick, S. S., Ng, W.-K., & Lim, E. P. (1999). Research Issues in Web Data Mining. In M. Mohania & A. M. Tjoa (Eds.), DataWarehousing and Knowledge Discovery (Vol. 1676, pp. 303-312). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Retrieved from"Rising Above the Gathering Storm" Committee. (2010). Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5. The National Academies Press.Smith, M. (1999). Invisible Crowd in Cyberspace: Measuring and Mapping the Social Structure of USENET. Communities in Cyberspace: Perspectives on New Forms of Social Organization. London: Routledge Press.

Chen, X., & Vorvoreanu, M., & Madhavan, K. (2012, June), Exploring Engineering Students’ College Experiences Using Social Media Monitoring Tool Radian6 Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21372

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