Facebook is growing in popularity and has crept into the classroom. It’s no surprise. Have you ever found yourself blanking out during a lecture and wishing you could check your status? If social networking is one of the biggest distractions during class time, maybe we should figure out a way to harness that obsession. The real question is, how many of us would enjoy and even participate more in class discussion if they were on a Facebook page?
In the article Experimenting with Facebook in the College Classroom, Nisha Malhotra, PhD said that she discovered 99% of the students in her research method class were Facebook users, routinely checking for updates 10-20 times a day. She decided to try crafting Facebook obsession into something useful. For her students, she created a relevant Facebook page with course material on it with excellent results.
“The students quickly formed study groups outside of class, exchanged articles and helped each other. Overall, they performed better than the non-participating students,” Malhotra commented. But while the process of moving classroom material onto a Facebook page had advantages, it was still a learning process.
According to Malhotra, students prefer a closed group. They are apprehensive about asking questions in open groups where their Facebook friends can judge them as scholastically inept.
Dr. Gina Weaver, a professor at SNU, agrees that while the majority may not care either way, classroom discussion on Facebook has the ability to bring out the best in people. When asked whether she thinks students enjoyed Facebook for class discussion, she replies, “With my Literary Theory class, a survey I gave at the end of the semester overwhelmingly confirmed that students did enjoy it and feel it created more of a sense of community for the class as well as encouraging them to apply the material to ‘the real world.'”
Not only did Weaver say students enjoyed Facebook discussion, she also claims that it was enjoyable for her, as a professor. “I also enjoyed having an easy way to share ‘extras’ (such as articles, pictures, etc.) with the class in a format that’s easy to use, as opposed to just linking them on Moodle. People are MUCH more likely to click a link on Facebook (especially since it gives you a preview) than they are on Moodle. When I linked things before on Moodle, students rarely, if ever, checked them out.”
But are there solutions for the students who are not Facebook fans? Weaver says that she “encourages students to create a dummy account just for the class if they don’t feel comfortable linking their real account to the group. I also try to be sure they are aware that they are not required to ‘friend’ me in order to be part of the group.”
While many students enjoy Facebook as an outlet for digital learning, obstacles in this method may still exist. Time and a bit more experience will tell if the use of Facebook for academic purposes proves efficient.