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Gauging Reaction to UTK’s Spring Alteration

On Sept. 17, The University of Tennessee – Knoxville announced a few changes to the 2021 spring semester. The changes are spurred by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty around it.

According to a press release by the university, the spring semester will now begin Jan. 20, one week later than initially planned. The new schedule also does not include a spring break or traditional no-class day, in an effort to limit travel by students. Below is the revised schedule:

  • January 20—April 28: Classes in session
  • April 2: Spring recess, no classes in session
  • April 29: Study day
  • April 30, May 3–6: Final exams

Naturally, there have been a few opinions about the decision, which effects the student body, faculty, staff, parents, other family members, and others associated with the university. To get a sense of that reaction, we wanted to check, one week later, on the conversation being had over social media. The timing is also due to The University of Tennessee also making a correction to its posted schedule on Tuesday, to reflect the end of the semester April 28 and final exams April 30 and May 3-6.

We sought the analysis afforded to us by Social Studio in the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center. To account for different posts on the subject, we used the keyword search terms of “Tennessee” AND “academic calendar,” “Tennessee” AND “spring,” “Tennessee” AND “class,” “UT” AND “class,”  UT” AND “academic calendar,” and “UT” AND “spring.” An initial search found many posts concerning the city of Spring Hill, Tenn., therefore “Spring Hill” was then excluded from the search parameters. The terms “Austin” and “Texas” were also excluded to try to mitigate any confusion with The University of Tennessee – Knoxville and The University of Texas – Austin.

Using these terms, Social Studio found 2,900 posts as of 2:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 23. And according to the sentiment analysis performed, social media posts with these parameters were 69.4% positive. It is important to note that Social Studio does not account for such factors as slang and sarcasm, though it does give a gauge of the general conversation.

To get another good estimate of the conversation, the word cloud generated by the search identifies key words being mentioned:

Another important factor to consider is who is driving the conversation. This is determined by a score of influencers, which is formed based on the number of retweets, quote tweets, likes, views and responses to posts. It appears that local television stations appear to be the biggest driver, with WKRN in Nashville having the top score of 90.

Perhaps surprisingly, this tweet shows up prominently in the search, despite the low number of retweets and likes:

Unfortunately, Social Studio does not include much of the conversation on Facebook, which has some interesting commentary. Social Studio factors in public conversations on a variety of platforms, such as Twitter, YouTube, comment sections on news stories, and more.

We’ll keep monitoring the feedback on moves made by The University of Tennessee and more from the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center.