I used Facebook groups for the first time this semester as a method of communicating with my students. The experiment had mixed results, with the groups working best in my public relations class and upperclassmen being the most active participants in all three of my classes.
I’ve used a combination of Desire 2 Learn, free WordPress sites and email to communicate with students enrolled in my courses in the past. Students don’t really care for D2L or email, and creating a website for every class was time-consuming and often ignored, so I decided to give Facebook a try.
I ran into a few issues in the beginning of the Facebook group experiment.
First, I could not invite students to the group via email immediately without already having a group member. This was easily solved by adding another professor (with her permission), then removing her from the group after the first student joined.
Second, not all of my students are on Facebook. This was a surprise, but some of my students purposely have deleted their Facebook accounts or never joined the social medium. I did not want to force them to use Facebook. So, I decided it would be a place to share supplementary information and announcements, but I would not test them on information provided there. In some ways, this defeated the purpose of the groups, but it was only two students and one ended up just using her sister’s account for the semester.
The Facebook groups worked well after resolving those initial issues. But, interestingly, each of my classes used the groups differently.
My news editing class used their Facebook group mostly for joking with each other and posting interesting articles they found online. This class was upperclassmen, most of whom work together on the student media staff I advise, so they know each other well. Most of them also have taken several classes with me before.
Editing students were most likely of all of the groups to post questions and to respond to one another. However, when I requested informal feedback (via email) about using the group for class, one student said she found it “somewhat helpful,” but didn’t think it was necessary because they didn’t participate as much as she thought they should have.
My media writing class’s Facebook group was much more one-sided. It was mostly just me posting course announcements and links to supplementary information. Students rarely commented, other than to “like” things I posted. I don’t recall students in that class starting conversations in the group with their own links like they did in editing. This may be because this was the first class in the major for most of these young students and their first semester with me as a professor.
This class provided some informal feedback about the group. One student wrote: “The Facebook group was good because you could get information to us in a way other than email, which some people don’t check as much as they check Facebook.” I agree that the group was good for this purpose, especially on the morning that I had car trouble on the way to that class. However, the group did not create a dialogue as I had hoped.
The Facebook group was most successful in my principles of public relations class. While I still did most of the posting in this class, students responded, “liked” and discussed in class things they had seen in the group discussion. The posts also helped give students supplementary information for writing public relations case studies and gave them some hints of what to study for weekly news quizzes. The students who shared links in this group mostly were upperclassmen, but most of the class joined the conversation at one time or another.
This class also provided the most informal feedback about the groups. One international student wrote that the Facebook group helped her a lot by keeping her updated about U.S. news. Two other students agreed that the group was a great place to share recent news and helped them with their current event quizzes.
It was interesting how the Facebook groups worked differently in my classes, depending on the subject and age of the students. One thing I disliked was that there were many times that I wanted to share information on this blog’s Facebook page, but I also wanted to share it with my classes. I posted the same things repeatedly, making me wonder if it might be better to simply have my students like the Prof KRG Facebook page. Also, I can schedule items for the Prof KRG page. I felt bad occasionally when I posted multiple items in a single day to the same group.
It also may become necessary to create usage guidelines or policies if I continue using Facebook groups for classes. There wasn’t any misuse of the groups this semester, but it seems appropriate to set expectations of engagement from the beginning.
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
Have you used Facebook groups in your classes? If so, what did you think about it?