Facebook as a Resource for Teaching and Learning

If you are interested enough in college students to be here on TΦ101, you have already heard all about Facebook, the ubiquitous social-networking software that seems to be so addictive for so many of our students--and, if we are being honest, for us, too.  All of this raises the question of how faculty members should relate to Facebook. 

 

Facebook Pro and Con

Should faculty members should use Facebook or other networking software as a way to communicate with students and to help students communicate with each other?   On the one hand, students are on Facebook all the time, so perhaps we should take advantage of it to engage our students on their terms. On the other hand, some faculty members will argue that we should be encouraging students to engage with us at a more serious and intellectual level, and, in general, that students are wasting too much time with Facebook already.

 

Possible Uses of Facebook

For those who want to explore academic uses of Facebook, Caroline Lego Munoz (Farleigh Dickinson) and Terri Towner (Oakland University) have developed some useful materials, including an article that outlines a range of best practices. At one end of the spectrum, faculty members can use a Facebook page in much the same way that many of us already use webpages, as a way to inform students about who we are and our professional interests. At the other end, it is possible to replicate on facebook many of the functions of more traditional course management systems, posting materials, or creating opportunities for students to communicate with each other.

 

Step-by-Step Guides

Towner has created some guides (posted on YouTube) that can talk a new user through the process of creating a Facebook page, setting up a course group on Facebook, and using a Facebook course group.  

 

Keep it Professional

Obviously, there is a major danger in social networking systems, especially for younger faculty members. Just as we warn our students that employers can use Facebook as a way to learn more (and sometimes harmful) information about potential employees, we need to remember that our students can use Facebook to get an inside look at the lives of their faculty members. So perhaps the best advice is this: don’t put anything on the Internet that you aren’t prepared to see in the campus newspaper.  The University of Michigan has a useful guide on this topic.

 

Sources:

Chad Hershock and Jeffrey Chun, "How Does your Online Identity Impact Classroom Climate?" Center for Research on Teaching and Learning, University of Michigan, 16 March 2009

Caroline Lego Munoz and Terri L. Towner, "Opening Facebook: How to Use Facebook in the College Classroom," unpublished conference paper, 2009

 

 

Author: John Immerwahr
Update: 17 Dec. 2015 (E. Tarver)