Facebook is probably the most well known social networking platform, providing a free and easy way to share messages, photos and videos through posting a ‘status update’. Friends can add comments to posts, creating a conversation. Comments can also include links. Videos can be linked from YouTube or uploaded and embedded directly – an 11MB video took 12 minutes to upload (this was on campus).
To create a site for collaborative working, you need to create a group (the ‘Create Group’ button is in your Facebook main menu on the left-hand side) and select members. They will receive an email notifying them that they have been added. Members are automatically added to the group – there is no ‘decline invitation’ option. They can remove themselves from it, but would have to request to join if they changed their mind (the owner would not be able to just add them again).
When you create a new group you have the following options:
- Open group – anyone can see and join;
- Closed group – whose membership can be seen by anyone, but posts can only be seen by members (recommended)
- Secret group, which can only be seen by members.
You can upload and share Word documents and PDFs – these can be downloaded too. A lesser known feature is the ability to create ‘docs’ in Facebook itself. These have basic formatting (bold, italic, lists), can include pictures and be edited by other group members. You can’t, however, download a copy. To access this feature, click on the ‘Files’ tab at the top of the page.
We also tested linking to a range of collaboration tools within Facebook to see how they looked: YouTube videos, including enhanced (Viewbix) ones, display a thumbnail with the link. This also applies to SlideShare and Pearltree presentations. MindMeister mindmaps and Prezi presentations link but no thumbnail is displayed.
Maps (powered by Microsoft Bing) are displayed only when an event is created, so that attendees can get directions. They disappear once the event has passed.
Polls can be added easily. Simply click on the ‘Add Question’ link at the top of the page and type your question and optional answers.
One to one video-conferencing is available via connecting your Facebook account with Skype (free internet calls provider), linking the accounts of your Skype-using Facebook friends. This is a bit off-putting as you don’t really know what’s being connected and therefore what is going to appear on your Facebook timeline – for example, allowing Skype to post on your wall.
We would recommend that in Skype ensure you link to Facebook and only allow chat (this is the minimum). Skype does not confirm anything. Then go to Facebook, open a chat window with a friend and select the Video symbol. It will ask you to download a file to install Skype/Facebook video and then you should be able to make a call… To stop the video call – hover over the webcam image and click on the little x symbol on the top right.
If a Facebook friend doesn’t have a Skype account, they can see text chat but no video.
Facebook also uses ‘Like’ buttons. These are clicked by users to express they like or support particular content, which then appears on their friends’ timelines. You may also see ‘Like’ buttons on other websites, enabling users to quickly and easily share content they find with their Facebook friends. It can be used for targeted advertising, or, in education, gathering and getting feedback about the most popular content.
Pros of using Facebook:
- Popular and easy-to-use in the main, although linking with Skype can be awkward.
- Many students already have Facebook accounts and it’s therefore a familiar platform. Some University courses are using it successfully with students.
Cons of using Facebook:
- Posts within Groups are not displayed in chronological order and, unlike on your newsfeed, you have no option to change this. This can be frustrating.
- Students may not appreciate ‘their social space’ being used for teaching and learning purposes.
- Don’t assume all students use or are prepared to sign up to Facebook.
- Facebook is not available in all countries – for example, it’s blocked in China, Iran, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It’s recently been unblocked in Syria. (Wikipedia December 2012) .
- As it’s a free service, you can’t get rid of adverts.
- Not supported by the University.
Recommended for quick and easy sharing and commenting on messages, documents, photos and videos.
- Technology Enhanced Learning with PU Group
- http://www.facebook.com/Plymouth.University.Environmental.Science – Dr Sean Comber et al. – (Environment Science)