Monday, June 18, 2007

Facebook vs. Blackboard

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.)

Facebook | Teaching & Learning with Facebook

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eldon said...

This is fascinating! Do you know of any successful examples yet?


Clay Spinuzzi said...

Not yet -- I haven't investigated beyond this post. But I mentioned the idea during my blogging and education workshop this morning, and a lot of light bulbs went off in the room.

Catherine said...

There is an LMS that already combines the academic features of Blackboard with the social network features that students love. And it's far less expensive than Blackboard!

It's called Scholar360. It's easy to use, very affordable, and quite flexible. You might want to check it out.

Doc Mara said...

I've tried integrating elements of Facebook into my classes, but have run into some pushback by students who want to keep their playground as far away as possible from their classroom. The reminder that they can block me from seeing their photos doesn't help all that much.

Clay Spinuzzi said...

Doc -- Good point. In fact, I just ran across Mark Evans' post "Five Things that Could Kill Facebook" in which he argues that opening Facebook up will make it less cool and students will migrate elsewhere. To his reasons, I would add that students will want a closed space to communicate that can't be searched by potential employers.

Also relevant is this thread from Blogging Pedagogy, in whose comments Nate Kreuter explains the "Facebook Ambush."

Andrew said...

I think doc mara is right about encroaching on students' space...

I saw a presentation of the University of Denver's Portfolio community ( and several faculty in the room tentatively asked, "if we have this, why do we need Bb/WebCT?" It was an excellent question, particularly for teachers only looking for a simple interface, a place to put content and a syllabus, and to have students work in a loosely collaborative style.

mpstaton said...

We developed a tool for teachers to use facebook. It's called Courses. go to