Using a Facebook group to organise course information and discussion

Jolanda Morkel, FID

Jolanda Morkel and Hermie Voulgarelis from the Department of Architectural Technology have been experimenting with blogs and  Facebook groups in their course “Principles of Architectural Design 3”. In this interview Jolanda talks about their experiences so far.

Why did you decide to use a Facebook group?

My colleague, Hermie Voulgarelis, and I looked for an easy and efficient  way to contact our students to inform them of important departmental organisational matters. When we were unable to set up a bulk SMS system to reach our third year students, we resorted to setting up a Facebook group.

What technology did you use? Was it easy to use? Where did you go for help?

We first set up a blog for our design subject, Principles of Architectural Design 3. It can be found at: Principlesofarchitecturaldesign.blogspot.com. Then students requested that we also set up and use a private Facebook group (which can only be accessed by members of this group), since they are all “often on Facebook” anyway.  Currently we use both – around five students out of 65 don’t yet have a Facebook profile and therefore cannot access Facebook. Both the blog (set up by Hermie Voulgarelis and maintained by both of us) and the Facebook group (set up by myself and maintained by both of us) have proven most useful. They were easy to set up – no serious help needed.

How did you integrate the Facebook group in your course?

We warned students at the start of the year that they would be expected to check the blog (and Facebook) every day, to stay informed. We post all relevent course information there and also publish interesting stuff that we find on the web when doing our own research. Students upload pictures of field trips to the Facebook group and use it as informal discussion forum around topics of our course. It also helps us to communicate with our students between the face-to-face sessions, e.g. by using the Facebook chat-tool. This gives us a very good feeling, about how students cope with the assignments and projects they have to carry out between our actual classes.

Any unintended outcomes?

We intended the blog, initially, and later, the Facebook group, to provide an information platform for our students. We thought it would improve mainly the student-lecturer relationship. Both the blog and the Facebook group achieve this. However, we also discovered that the value of sharing knowledge and providing encouragment amongst students and the collaborative learning which subsequently followed, has been surprisingly strong! We also receive useful and immediate feedback through the Facebook platform from our students, which we would never get as immediately and honestly in class.

Any disappointments?

The blog has not been interactive unfortunately. It may be the way that it was set up, not allowing students to comment. However, the Facebook group has proven really useful in providing a space for students to discuss topics relating to their course and offer each other moral support. We also feel that the most active students on the Facebook group, use their own laptop or SMART phones, to access the Internet. Students who have to rely purely on CPUT resources to access the Facebook group or the blog, might be slightly disadvantaged.

Web links:

Blog address: http://www.principlesofarchitecturaldesign.blogspot.com/

Facebook group: Principles of Architectural Design 3

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About D Gachago

I have been working in the field of eLearning for more than 10 years, in commercial companies and in Higher Education, in Austria, Botswana, Scotland and now South Africa. I am still enthusiastic about all the interesting stuff that's going on and am trying desperately to keep on top of all the new technology coming out (not always managing very well).
This entry was posted in good practice, web2.0 tools and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Using a Facebook group to organise course information and discussion

  1. Frances de Klerk says:

    Whow! What an excellent idea. I am definitely going to try it. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Colleen Cocotos says:

    What a brilliant way of engaging students. I thought of using FACEBOOK to track alumni?

    Interior should also think of engaging students via FACEBOOK, thank you for sharing.

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