December 11, 2007

Facebook and courses

Writing about web page http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/03/facebook-education-app-gets-funding/

I was interested to read this report which notes that although there is a variety of tools designed to let students embed information about the courses they are studying into their Facebook page, none of those tools have been even a little bit successful. The most popular of them has only 3,300 or so active daily users, a drop in the ocean compared with more socially oriented tools for sharing and interacting with others. Does this mean that users would generally rather keep their Facebook and their study separate?


- 14 comments by 4 or more people Not publicly viewable

[Skip to the latest comment]
  1. Tony Hirst

    Hi John

    I was just passed the same story, in the context of the OU Course Profiles app ( http://blogs.open.ac.uk/Maths/ajh59/010855.html )

    One of the the things we are looking at with our app are ways of making it a little bit stickier. Just listing courses is something that will take you to the app once per course. Building some sort of weekly (or even daily) use case around the app is a whole other issue.

    One thing we are wary of doing with the app is intruding on the student’s social space ( http://blogs.open.ac.uk/Maths/ajh59/011606.html ); so finding useful things for users to do in the app without making it seem like we are forcing VLE functionality into Facebook is one of the thing’s we’re thinking around…

    At the moment, our daily users are running at about 5% on a userbase of 2,400. With approx 50 adds a day accounting for 2% of daily users, that means we have 2-3% daily active users. I don’t know that really means though.

    Adding a course to the profile is something you do once.
    Looking for a study buddy on a course maybe something you do a handful of times.
    Commenting on a course maybe something you do regularly IF the comment wall takes on the role of an active FB group for a course, or if it takes over part of the role of the ‘official’ course (or alumni) conference.
    Using the ‘friends on a course’ area as a place for communicating with friends (like a cut down address book) is something you might do regularly (err???? ;-)

    The way we’re thinking about the app in its current form, it’s hard to see why daily use rates would be that high at all?

    And bear in mind that if you max out on average at one or two weekly visits for the duration of the course, this would only give 1/7 = 14% daily active users…

    So maybe 3% active for course profiles isn’t that bad?

    tony

    11 Dec 2007, 12:04

  2. John Dale

    I think you’re probably right. The OU is a slightly different case, of course, but for a university like Warwick, a widget to help you find people doing the same module as you is slightly pointless; just turn your head to the left or the right in the lecture theatre!

    We know that students are keen on calendar or schedule functions; something which can tell you when and where your upcoming lectures, seminars and other events are, but it still doesn’t seem like data that you’d want to display on your Facebook page.

    11 Dec 2007, 15:02

  3. Martin

    Dammit, I was about to respond citing the OU FB project and Tony got in before me. Oh, I’ll respond anyway. What’s been interesting for me in the OU FB project is that, having come from the VLE project, how you think about different types of apps. They are much more about facilitating contact and learning between peers, not directing (and thus invading) their learning space. So, while the course profile may not be as useful at Warwick, tools to help you find and share resources with students studying in the same subject area not at Warwick might be.
    Also finding others on your cohort before you start at your uni is increasingly beneficial both for students and the university.
    As to the numbers – it’s tricky, we haven’t been pushing it hard, and one probably wouldn’t want to make it compulsory, but at the same time you could push these apps a bit more and make them ‘semi-official’. Ultimately it may be that you have a range of these all over the place – they won’t reach everyone, but they’ll help some. It’s whether that is a decent ROI that’s the question.

    11 Dec 2007, 15:16

  4. Max Hammond

    This is something I’ve been thinking about recently.

    We know that students are keen on calendar or schedule functions; something which can tell you when and where your upcoming lectures, seminars and other events are, but it still doesn’t seem like data that you’d want to display on your Facebook page.

    I think you’re spot on there. There is currently a pressure on education to become pervasive throughout an individual’s life, but I have never met anyone who wants their employer/place of study to be pervasive throughout their life. This rush to build applications into facebook seems to me to be a classic technology-driven, rather than business-driven venture. Facebook is there, users love it, therefore users will love to use FB for work things? I’m not so sure. Facebook’s for friends, after all. Applications are to help you interact with your friends, not with the entity providing the application; you don’t use facebook apps to do anything other than interact with people.

    It strikes me that developing tools without undertaking the user requirements piece (where users=students, not learning technologists) is no better an idea in Education 2.0 than any other technology arena. As I’m sure you’re aware I’m a cynic at heart, but it appears that my cynicism is borne out by studies such as the one above, and this one.

    (All views expressed are personal, and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone other than me)

    11 Dec 2007, 22:54

  5. britta

    Courses apps are something of a privacy issue for some students that I know – they don’t want to list their courses publicly because it’s too good of a way for other people to know exactly where they are at several times during the week. It’s easy for an overly-interested friend to “accidentally” bump into somebody who they know is leaving room 142 at 2 pm on Tuesdays. People still share course information with friends in conversations (endless rounds of “what are you taking this quarter?”), but those details are easily forgotten…which is something of a good thing.

    12 Dec 2007, 01:19

  6. John Dale

    Max’s link to the Guardian article (the title of the article is “Students tell universities: Get out of MySpace!”) provides further interesting comment:-

    Phipps believes Facebook and MySpace could soon replace the student union bar as a venue for meeting and chatting, effectively making online distance learning more user friendly.

    I think the first part of that sentence may well be right, but the second part puzzles me. Facebook and its ilk are very much social spaces, and the analogy with people going to the pub together is right. So what possesses otherwise sane people, who would never have dreamed of suggesting that a smart way for universities to interact with its students would be to send a bunch of its employees to the pub to hang out with the students and give them fliers about what the university’s up to, to think that doing exactly the same thing on Facebook is a good plan?

    12 Dec 2007, 18:31

  7. Robert O'Toole

    what possesses otherwise sane people, who would never have dreamed of suggesting that a smart way for universities to interact with its students would be to send a bunch of its employees to the pub to hang out with the students

    Yes, that does sound quite odd. However, there is a small degree of sense in this idea for a university like Warwick. My experience of being a student here (philosophy, then education) was that the dividing line between the social and the academic was blurred. And that’s one of the reasons that studying at Warwick is so enjoyable (remembering those all-night seminars with Nick in the Cholo). I can still see that to varying degrees in some of the departments that I work with. In which department do I find the line most blurred? I’ll not publicly name them. But I will say that it is also the department that has been using Facebook. Of course no one is actually sending lecturers into Facebook/pub. It’s just a choice that some of them make when appropriate to their teaching.

    17 Dec 2007, 09:31

  8. Pete

    I sat next to a girl on the train last week who was using facebook throughout the journey (it was a long journey). Her friends were sending her pictures of new handbags and shoes they’d bought and I was amazed at the amount of time she spent studying them. I thought is that what facebook is all about!? It seemed rather strange but maybe she was doing a degree in fashion design or something, I didn’t think of that.

    19 Dec 2007, 08:40

  9. Casey Leaver

    Surely, the other interesting (and fairly unique) aspect of the OU app is the ability to find out which modules other people have taken/ are taking next, i.e. what the potential linkages are.

    In terms of the whole “stay out of my private friends space issue”, I’m interested from another angle. Staff comms. I know that the very idea will send John & Chris M (and probably Tony & Martin as well) up the wall…

    Instead of trying to ban it in workplaces why not capitalise on it? The pure concept of social networking (ignoring for the moment all the difficulties associated with the various mechanisms for achieving it) is internal communications gold dust!

    19 Dec 2007, 12:59

  10. John Dale

    I’m not sure whether being able to find out what modules others are or will be taking is particularly interesting, or if it is, whether it’s interesting in a social, Facebook context, or interesting in a more formal, institutional context. Why would you care if you noticed that someone on Facebook, who you don’t know well enough in real life to be aware of the fact already, will be taking the same course as you next term?

    19 Dec 2007, 13:28

  11. Casey Leaver

    It’s a specific OU context again.

    People don’t necessarily sign up for a whole degree and so if they enrol on, and pay for, one course at a time they can benefit from peer-to-peer advice on what pathway to take – i.e. how to navigate through the modules in the right order, which level 1 modules qualify you for which range of level 2 ones and then what should you choose etc.

    It’s a bit like:

    We notice you have just taken course blah. People who have taken course blah have gone of to take courses blah A, blah B and blah C.

    It could also help completition and retention rates.

    19 Dec 2007, 14:58

  12. Max Hammond

    i.e. how to navigate through the modules in the right order, which level 1 modules qualify you for which range of level 2 ones and then what should you choose etc.

    Shouldn’t that be a role of the institution, rather than the hype and rumour that tends to permeate any student body? And if so, shouldn’t it be handled by institutional systems or processes, rather than external social ones?

    21 Dec 2007, 19:49

  13. Katharine Widdows

    I am currently looking into ways that the Library could use facebook, but it seems that it would be more of a marketing tool, to give students more direct access to links etc, than expecting them to go through the existing Library web pages straight off. They are already logged into facebook so it seems like a good place to give them links from.

    I have set up a Library facebook page to this end. And with no promotion at all (it is actually “hidden” in a number of ways) it is already getting student “fans”. This does not require us to invade student space, they come to us if they are interested.

    As for course information on facebook, Warwick has a lot of academic based groups on facebook with large numbers of members, so students do seem to be using it for study (how much they use the groups and exactly what they use them for, I havent investigated).

    Apologies if my comments are not directly related to this discussion, but I did find the discussion above interesting.

    22 Dec 2007, 17:48

  14. http://www.albumoftheday.com/facebook/

    27 Dec 2007, 16:26


Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.

Trackbacks

Search this blog

Tags

Blog archive

Loading…

Most recent comments

  • Well Met By Witchlight by Nina Bawden perhaps? Published 1972. Three kids find a witch living in the… by istara on this entry
  • I am looking for a children's book I read in the early 1970s about a young girl who found a witch li… by Maggie on this entry
  • Thanks, John. There are always more books to be remembered, so it's good to have a decent source. by John Dale on this entry
  • I'm a bit late to the party, but in the future, you can always ask at http://www.reddit.com/r/tipofm… by John on this entry
  • I remember we had a series of books when I was around 10 years old in the early 80's. One of the boo… by Andrew Uttley on this entry
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder
© MMXIV