I’m currently working with Pete Watton, University Placement Co-ordinator, setting up a social networking space for students on work placements. In previous years Pete has set up communities on UsPaCe and Ning but students didn’t really engage, complaining about having to sign in to another system. Lots of staff already use Facebook groups with their students and they seem to work very well – so this year he decided to give Facebook a try and, as I’ve never set up a group before, I agreed to help him.

We set up a closed group with Pete, myself and Vicky, one of the placement students, as Administrators. Vicky invited the other students and within a couple of hours everyone had signed up – really positive! However, our group page looked different from other groups: – the description appears as the first post and is now right at the bottom of the page whereas others’ have their description under their profile picture. So I started to investigate…

Facebook recently modified its ‘Groups’ feature. Here’s what they have to say about it…

There is some good stuff here… everyone can post links, photos, videos and events. You can also upload a doc (although I haven’t tried this myself yet). Another new feature is the ability to have live group chats – all of these could be great for student groups. BUT…

Despite being an Administrator, Pete was unable to post links himself which is odd; I invited Mark L so that I could see what students are seeing and he couldn’t see the event Pete had posted previously – not good!; Also, the discussion board feature has been removed. However, perhaps the biggest pain is that members can invite their friends – not only does this make the group uncontrollable in terms of numbers, but it also raises privacy issues as consequently you are sharing posts with complete strangers!

I appreciate that Facebook is not designed primarily for academic use, however, reading through the comments from ‘The New Facebook Groups: All You Need To Know‘ article, it would appear they have upset quite a few people who use groups for various purposes. This is the danger of relying on free social networking tools I guess. Luckily, I’ve been given an old group that I can hopefully re-set for our placement students. Can we have both the old and new group set-ups please Facebook, so we can choose how we manage our groups?

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