More Reasons Our Class Facebook Group Is Better Than My School Discussion Board

Since writing this earlier post “Why the Facebook Group my Students Created for Themselves is Better Than the Discussion Forum I Created For Them”  a number of other advantages have surfaced.

‘Likes’ lower the participation threshold

The ability to “Like” a post makes it possible for students to contribute to a discussion, without necessarily having to compose a significant new thought or question.  It lowers the participation threshold.  As a result the level of participation increases.  (see image below)

‘One click entry’ lowers the inconvenience barrier

Logging into my “official” discussion board, requires a student to enter a URL (or click on a bookmark), then type in a username and password.  While that is not prohibitively cumbersome, it’s certainly a few extra steps that you have to deliberately take to visit the discussion.  Compare that to a Facebook Group, where students are generally already logged in to Facebook anyway, so visiting the Facebook Group, requires (effectively) no log in.

Cross-posting from YouTube makes sharing seamless.

If a student or teacher is watching YouTube videos and finds one that is relevant to what is being studied, s/he can post the YouTube video directly to the Facebook Group wall, without having to leave YouTube – or even having to pause the video!  Back on the Facebook Group, classmates can watch the YouTube video right there on the wall, without having to leave Facebook!

The Facebook Group attracts a different crowd.

Our school-based discussion board was visited regularly by some of the most academic and enthusiastic students but only occasionally by others.  The Facebook Group is quite different.  It’s visited regularly, even by students who rarely visited my school discussion board. The reason for this is quite obvious.  Less academically inclined students are often the ones who spend the most time of an evening socialising on Facebook!  When they see that little red notification flag appear – they are just one click away from reading and ‘liking’ what they read.

Free Social Networking – lowers the mobile cost barrier.

Even for students with a smart phone (about 65% of them now) visiting our old discussion forum is not only fiddly -but uses mobile data – which, depending on the student’s mobile phone plan, can be expensive.  But many pre-paid mobile phone plans include free Facebook and Twitter access.  That makes our Facebook Group  very accessible via mobile phone. (not to mention that the Facebook iPhone app is quite slick).

What’s the Downside?

The biggest downside of a Facebook Group compared to a more traditional old-school discussion board, is that in most schools Facebook is blocked on the school network.  This is less of an impediment to students than one might expect as most VCE students now have a smartphone (assuming phones are not also banned) so can thereby step around the school’s network when it gets in the way of their learning. ; )

9 thoughts on “More Reasons Our Class Facebook Group Is Better Than My School Discussion Board

  1. Andrew, I could not agree more with you on the use of facebook as a dicsussion forum. I have virtual students together with my face to face class for a senior school subject. Over the year, I have found that students rarely read my emails, are reluctant to logon to other sites that I might try and use with them for interactive and collaborative use, are blocked from my blog which is my learning management system while at school etc BUT when I commenced a facebook group for them prior to their mid year exam, they are there, often within minutes of updates. Students respond, read what is there and are actually asking questions on the work studied , and before I can answer the question, another student has done it!

    • Thanks Anne. Yes the more I think about it, the less reason I can see to use any other platform at the moment. Facebook will not be the platform to use forever. But for now it’s what most students are using… as you say, they don’t use email any more. You could send a student an email and find that three days later they have not read it! That would rarely be the case on Facebook

  2. I fully endorse what both you and Anne have said, Andrew. I have two FB groups for my VCE classes, where I can post links to relevant articles (most online news platforms have a ‘share’ button to quickly and easily copy the link to a FB page or group). I have been thrilled when one of my less academic students posted her own links to share with the class as well as contributed to the discussion with her own experience from another class.
    I won’t continue to pay for the Ning I set up as an online forum – Facebook is where my students are and it has many more useful features that enable sharing and discussion. Thanks for all the work you do to ‘normalise’ Faceboo for education.

    • Thanks for the comment Britt. Yes Ning was great because it was ‘Facebook like’ and it was free – and because it was a closed group (which at the time Facebook wasn’t). But now that you have to pay for Ning, and since a Facebook group can be a closed group. I am with you… i can’t see any reason to use Ning. And the disadvantage of Ning is that it’s a separate login. Whereas since kids are already on fb socialising… they don’t have to ‘go somewhere else” to participate in your class discussion.

  3. Andrew thanks, your post and the comments from Anne and Britt add further evidence to the debate about the use of Facebook in education.
    I have no doubt that students are more likely to meet you there rather than on a school discussion board. I hadn’t thought of “likes”
    as being a convenient way for students to participate or that cost will influence the student’s willingness to engage in mobile learning. The ability of teachers and students to seamlessly share information from other websites to a group is such an advantage.
    Many thanks for pointing out the obvious to me :)

    • Thanks for the comment Penny. :) I wish I could say that my keen powers of insight had enabled me to see what these advantages would be – and that is why we moved to a Facebook group. The truth however, is that I had never thought of these advantages either. It was only when my students created the group and started using it, that I started noticing these little things – which really are big things.

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