Monday, 31 May 2010

A Learning Centre - A Facebook Page Proposal

After my last post there have been some developments which led in turn to a re-think. I said before that I was not sure how a learning resource centre could use Facebook for social learning. Most of my elearning work recently was focused on creating resources for workshops that are being made available on our intranet and the VLE. Promoting the use of the learning centre is generally focused on these internal pathways.

Now our college has joined social media with an account on Twitter and a page on Facebook, a new pathway is open and I can consider social learning for a learning resource centre. I am using this post to outline a general proposal that could bring a social media aspect to providing learning resources for students and staff in any education establishment.

Why use Facebook? Pros and Cons

  • No need to ask people to join - aimed at those already using Facebook regularly. This means they are already familiar with how the site works. I would guess using my own observations, that many students (and maybe some staff) log in to Facebook more often than they log in to the VLE.
  • Many people are using mobile gadgets to access Facebook on a daily basis therefore it would be easy for them to receive updates
  • It is easy to set up and maintain a profile and page (or group) for social learning - there are lots of online resources to demonstrate how if you need instructions.
  • Set up with clear goals and strategies to minimise privacy issues. Use of Facebook by educational establishments can include teaching strategies to encourage making good choices on what we share and what is private and what is public, how Facebook changes may affect your privacy and strategies that safeguard internet use on all social sites.
  • Privacy - yes it is the hot issue! Don't underestimate it's importance! In our roles of safeguarding it is very important for colleges, schools etc use of social media to be wary of possible problems and deal with them. I hope that the strategy chosen will protect the privacy of all individuals. If you can see a hole in it please comment and point it out.
  • Risk of upsetting some who use Facebook for fun and don't wish to mix their education or work with pleasure. You may not get the activity you expect - so don't assume participation, just work towards it.

    Whether you are a Facebook user or not, it is very useful to do some research and find out others views on how to use the site for the purpose of social learning. It can help to define your institutions aims and objectives. For this post I used resources posted previously in Facebook - A Tool for Social Learning. For your convenience here is a list some of the resources used:

    Facebook for Learning? Boleh! by Zaid Alsagoff

    How to Use Facebook for Social Learning by the Centre for Learning & Performance Technolgies, Jane Hart

    100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom by Online College

    I found a good example of how one university Learning Resource Centre uses Facebook Page:
    Queen Margaret University Learning Resource Centre

    The aims and objectives define the purpose and proposed use of a Facebook page for a learning resource centre. These are my suggestions:


    • to promote use of LRC for research, study, books etc.
    • to promote resources available including online resources
    • to direct staff and students to internal resources
    • provide updates on special displays and books available to loan
    • to easily share reviews, experiences via comments etc.
    • to notify about surveys, book sales, opening hours being changed
      • provide an alternative method of communicating with staff and students
      • engage and interact with users of the Learning Centre
      • reach more of the community who are already using Facebook
      Page not Group - why?
      I am focusing on creating a page because I believe it would serve the aims and objectives for the following reasons:
      • you have to join a group to become a member and if it is a closed group you must meet certain criteria to join
      • a page is easy to join as you simply have to like the page (click on the Like button)
      • page updates appear more readily in your news feed
      • pages allow you to add applications which would enhance the services and information offered
      • pages are the best option for a learning centre which supports staff and students
      The presentation by Zaid gives all the details in the options available for groups and pages on Facebook. A closed group would not be necessary and I don't think there will be any need to message all members. Both of these are features of Facebook groups. Pages allow you to use apps such as Notes which can be used as a blog or you can import your blog from another site. If you wish page status updates can be linked to Twitter using a suitable application.

      For this project I would recommend that a profile is created specifically to maintain the LRC page. This would help to maintain a professional profile reflecting the team behind the page rather than one individual. Profile image and name should be determined by discussion and agreement of staff involved in the service.

      When you like a page and comment on it you do not share any personal information other than your name and profile pic. As long as your profile is private the only thing you risk is inviting friend requests. I do not recommend staff accept friend requests from current students. This would be in line with safeguarding recommendations.

      No doubt you are aware of the latest disquiet around Facebook and privacy. Check your privacy settings especially after any changes. I would recommend doing this regularly regardless. Best practice would be to posting only links and items you don't mind anyone seeing.

      It is not the goal of this proposal to invite people to use Facebook but to reach those who are already using it.

      Facebook and Students

      Here is a link to a news item regarding the use of Facebook and how it helped to reduce 'students drop-outs' from the BBC News. Very useful to see positive practical experience of social media.

      I thank you for reading my proposal and hope you have some comments and thoughts to share especially if you have any concerns on how taking this path would affect support for learning and student progression. I look forward to hearing from you.

      Watch out for future developments.

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