New research has been published by academics from the University of Central Lancashire in the Journal of Learning Media and Technology into student attitudes to using Facebook for education. The findings seem to support previous studies including small scale studies conducted here at the University of York, that while Facebook is widely used by students (90% had accounts, 77% used FB daily), only 23% wanted to see it used for learning purposes, and the majority of that use for informal learning, sharing with other students etc. The paper concludes that while FB should not be used for “formal learning” activities, it can bring benefits when used for course communication, informal learning. One important factor that seems to have been overlooked is the role of instructors in Facebook spaces; there are repeated concerns from staff and students about the ethics and practicalities of them interacting through these informal spaces and the implications of blurring the lines between educational activities and the social / private activities of both parties.
Drilling into why students students see utility in Facebook, reasons seem to revolve around ubiquity of access and ease of use; they go there frequently, they can access from multiple devices and posting and receiving content is easy. One other platform that offers similar functionality without the ongoing concerns of blurring the lines between social and educational activities, could be Google communities. This is available to all staff and students at York as one of the Google apps for education, without them needing to create dedicated accounts and is currently being deployed successfully in by people like Matthew Collins from Archaeology. Definitely one to watch for the future.