The other day, I idly wondered if Facebook could replace Blackboard. After all, Blackboard suffers from slow development, poor aesthetic design, and middling (at best) interaction design. Its main advantage at UT is that it has been integrated with UTDirect, so students are automatically signed up in their classes.
Compare that with Facebook, which has great scalability and development, good aesthetic and interaction design, and a huge base. You can set up private and public groups, create events, etc. You can't post grades, but UT has a separate secure gradebook for that anyway. Oh, and Facebook is free.
Checking Facebook out today, I notice that BJ Fogg from Stanford has set up a Facebook group on "Teaching and learning with Facebook." He lists three main advantages of using Facebook:
Compared to other online systems, Facebook's tools for groups are limited. Facebook offers no wiki, no group notifications, no applications you can install on a group page. Despite the current limitations (which we all hope will change soon), Facebook has big potential for teaching and learning.
Facebook offers three clear advantages over any other solution:
#1. Our students use Facebook and like it
In most cases our students are already on Facebook. They hang out here. They like it. As teachers we bring our expertise and learning processes into their world.
#2. The social connections are built in
Facebook maps out students' social connections. This can be used in many ways, such as having students get peer feedback on their work. (The value of Facebook's Social Graph is a big topic, which we'll explore together in the coming weeks.)
#3. New applications launched daily
Facebook is adding applications faster than any other company. It seems that most days someone posts a new app that benefits teaching and learning. Soon we'll have a wealth of options. Most important: All this functionality will be integrated with social connections. (This last idea probably should be point #4.)
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