Is Ryerson University ahead of the social media curve?

Illustration by Susana Gomez Baez

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[I]n our society, communicating with the world around us is essential. Through social media mediums like Twitter, it has never been easier to get information on worldwide events within seconds of them happening.

“Twitter provides a running commentary of life. It’s run by users and not by brands,” said Hamza Khan, who joined Ryerson University as the Digital Community Facilitator at the beginning of 2012. Khan registered for Twitter in 2008, as it was just getting popular, and tweets daily.

With well over 100 tweeters across administration/staff members, faculty members, and Ryerson organizations, the students and faculties of Ryerson University are well represented on Twitter, more so than most universities.

Delila Bikic, 18, a first-year History and Political Science student at University of Toronto said, “I’ve never tried to search my professors up on Twitter. Usually the exec members of clubs use Twitter to get a hold of members and advertising.”

While the University of Toronto has a somewhat limited presence on Twitter, York University, another big university in Toronto, hasn’t had the online enthusiasm of Ryerson.

“I don’t know, they never really tell us,” said Madalina Gherzan, 18, a first-year English and French student at York University. “Our English professor had Twitter. I found it on the course website. I’d remember him talking about it but none of my other teachers have mentioned it.”

However, Gherzan believe that using social mediums like Twitter can benefit students learning experience and make it easier to manage and discuss their university career.

“Any of the social networks are pretty useful and it’s the age of technology and a majority has an account especially with smart phones. It’s something to fall back on. Even if you don’t use it frequently, it’s there for you,” said Gherzan.

Gherzan said that if it could promote organisation at school and provide school information it should be recommended to students. “They don’t require it but it would be a good idea. If you had it and you can get updates, you should mention it,” Gherzan said.

“They need to get with the program. They’re setting themselves up for failure in this digital age,” Khan stressed.

The reason for Ryerson’s large amount of Twitter users may have to do with the contemporary approach to education. As opposed to more theory based universities, Ryerson focuses on practical approaches giving graduates a better balance between hands-on and theoretical experience.

At Ryerson, some faculties, such as journalism, are required to a professional Twitter account to follow all the major news companies and keep up to date on global issues and events. This ‘ear-to-the-ground’ mentality is not that of other universities.

This online presence just might give Ryerson students a leg up on job opportunities, applied content and sense of community, providing a better school experience.

Julia Hanigsberg, VP Administration and Finance at Ryerson University, began using Twitter just over a year ago as a way to communicate with faculty, students and alumni at Ryerson as “a way to put a face and a personality to the name”.

“Through Twitter, I’ve connected with people and organizations in the Ryerson community that I never would have otherwise,” said Hanigsberg.

With Twitter it’s easy for professors to post links that connect to certain topics covered in the curriculum and Ryerson professors are taking advantage of having a more one-on-one connection with their students.

Hanigsberg and Khan frequently Tweet about common interests with their followers and share links to fascinating events.

“The people who are most successful on twitter are the ones who are interesting and insightful,” said Hanigsberg.

But Hanigsberg isn’t the only member of administration that utilizes Twitter. The new list of Ryerson tweeters in the past year include Gerd Hauck (Dean of FCAD), Jean-Paul Boudreau (Dean of FA), Ivor Shapiro (Chair of Journalism), Robert Ott(Chair of Fashion), and Brian Lesser (Director of CCS), to name a few.

In an inner-city university there is also a need to provide a sense of community within the school. Unlike bigger universities with enclosed campuses, Ryerson has far less unity between programs. Through Twitter, Ryerson students can feel connected with the faculty and each other.

Ryerson University also pays attention to concerns that students are voicing through Twitter. “We’re a pretty big community,” said Hanigsberg. “We can’t all know each other. Twitter connects us to so many people. It allows me to hear student’s concerns and frustrations and let them know that the school does care.”

“Ryerson is mainly a commuter campus. There’s a major correlation between student activity on Twitter and involvement at school. Twitter allows students to feel connected and involved without even being on campus,” said Khan.

To best describe twitter, Khan quoted the 2010 movie, The Social Network, saying that Twitter is about “taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.”

tjones@ryersonfolio.com

View our lists of Ryerson tweeters from across all faculties: Ryerson Folio list on Twitter.