Social Networking – using Facebook for Teaching, Learning & Marketing

The following article will be published in the University of Plymouth’s Blended Learning Journal next month.  Here’s a sneak preview…

There are those who say that only the brave or foolhardy educator would consider using Facebook as part of their teaching toolkit.  The knotty issues of friending students, cyberbullying and online identity sit like land mines in the field of battle and institutions, for fear of blowing themselves up, often find a blanket ban of the infamous social networking site solves any issues before they have a chance to occur.

It’s now 2012, Facebook is ubiquitous and as much a part of people’s daily routine as cleaning their teeth, eating Shepherd’s Pie and washing socks.  Switch Facebook off at network level and you can no longer stop students from accessing it – as the proliferation of smart phones will attest.  Take students’ phones away from them at the start of each day and return them when the buses arrive to take them home and you are effectively switching normal life ‘off’ for students and plunging them into the dark ages.  Surely this isn’t the correct way to prepare young adults for normal life?

How then, do institutions embrace this technology while ensuring use of Facebook as a part of teaching and learning is safe and secure?

Cornwall College decided to bite the social networking bullet when it became apparent that the best way to contact students outside college hours was not via email (which students rarely check, it apparently being ‘the domain of the elderly’) or through the VLE, but to go to where the students already were: Facebook.

The next step was to write a Briefing Paper extolling the virtue of safely using Facebook as part of teaching and learning and a Safe Use Policy designed specifically for social networking.  We wrote a short, dynamic and image-rich online training session for staff interested in using the social networking site, a checklist highlighting a series of criteria that teachers had to adhere to in order to set up a Facebook space for their learners, then sat back and waited…

…Six months later and the college has almost 2 dozen Facebook spaces used to sharing important course-related information, films, documents and links (and those all important messages to students) and to market the college’s restaurants and beauty salons. 

Whetted your appetite?  Follow these links to access downloadable copies of the Briefing Paper and Acceptable Use Policy, and watch a webinar that explains all of this in more detail.


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