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Sunday, June 02, 2013

Course materials on Facebook?

I use blogs in all of my classes. I post the syllabus and supplemental materials, the class audio (I record all classes), and the assignments and questions for the next class. Students are expected to post questions, comments, material, etc., to the blog for continued discussion. I also include a Blogroll, to encourage them to read on-line legal sources (How Appealing, etc.). It has worked reasonably well, I think. The one limitation is that it marks an additional web site that they must affirmatively seek out to look for new postings (or get an RSS fee to an email account).

A colleague suggested moving all of this onto Facebook. I would set-up the "FIU Civ Pro" Facebook page and students would have to friend the site. They then would be notified through Facebook (which they always have on) of a new posting, etc. The theory is that they can access information and material passively, without having to seek out a new site. I am not on Facebook (for no reason other than I haven't done it), so I do not fully know its technical capacity (thus whether I can post documents or hold conversations), whether this would work (and work better than the current set-up), or whether it is a good idea.

Thoughts?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 2, 2013 at 08:38 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink

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Comments

I'm finding that Facebook is decreasing in popularity with law students. Many of my students have either grown bored, or are worried about prospective employers searching their profiles.

Posted by: Jim Milles | Jun 2, 2013 9:58:53 PM

I can think of a few reasons not to be enthusiastic about this, but here's one that's easily overlooked: you would be compelling them to disclose a lot of information to Facebook's advertisers, which would of course bombard them with ads. And all of the information they students disclose about themselves ("I disagree with th abortion ruling. It's just wrong.") is going to be available in some form, perhaps identifiably so, indefinitely.

Of all the platforms to entrust this task, Facebook would have to be among the least reliable when it comes to maintaining the privacy of your students. For that reason alone, I would look for something else.

Posted by: Adam | Jun 2, 2013 10:10:15 PM

No way I would do this, even putting aside the particular privacy concerns that Adam raises. I would not want to be responsible for compelling any students to join, for exposing their profiles (not always under their proper names) to me or to other students without their having taken adequate protective steps, and so forth. At a minimum, you have to join and check it out as a matter of due diligence before you take this idea very far.

Most basically, though your motivation is very sympathetic, I see hidden virtue in making students take the additional step of checking another account or straying from Facebook. If they can't take these steps toward establish a separate professional persona, I'd be worried.

Posted by: Ed | Jun 3, 2013 8:54:21 AM

It's perhaps likely that all students are on facebook (though maybe not, if you have foreign ones- my impression is that many people outside the US prefer to use "local" variants) but as someone not on facebook and with zero interest in joining, if I were to take a class and was told I'd have to join facebook to access the materials, I'd find that extremely annoying. (Perhaps more relevant for me, if I were taking part in a conference or workshop and was told that the materials would only be available on facebook, I'd be annoyed enough to consider not taking part.)

Posted by: Matt | Jun 3, 2013 10:52:22 AM

I would be extremely reluctant to do this. We are constantly trying to make students understand the importance of keeping their personal online identities (often epitomized or entirely encapsulated by their Facebook accounts) separate from their professional identities, and keeping their Facebook accounts private or anonymous is a big part of that. Requiring them to use Facebook to participate in class would be extremely detrimental to that cause. As the other commenters have noted, privacy is a major issue on Facebook as well.

In addition, I don't think it actually carries the benefits that your colleague suggests. The way information is presented on Facebook, especially for students (who probably have a lot of connections and friends already), it would be exceedingly easy for posts from your course to get lost. To keep up, students would still have to seek out the Facebook page on a regular basis -- so it would be no easier for them than a blog. While they could get email updates from the page, I think a blog that allows them to subscribe via RSS would actually be simpler for everyone.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that if you're not already on Facebook, you might want to think about the personal consequences of joining. :) Those people I know who have tried to use Facebook for limited purposes (under their real names) have been surprised and sometimes frustrated by the difficulty of doing so!

Posted by: Jessie | Jun 3, 2013 11:46:47 AM

I don't think this is a very good idea. Some students have substantial reasons either not to join or to be completely hidden from public view. It's not some random site -- it's Facebook -- and with that comes a host of controversy.

That aside, I want to push a bit on Jessie's and Ed's notion that there's such a thing as a separate professional and personal personas. I just don't see it. In fact, it strikes me as a relic of misunderstanding how the internet works and one likely to produce unexpectedly negative outcomes.

Now that's a fact I very much dislike. I have other "identities" across the internet -- ones where nobody uses their name, but instead everybody uses pseudonyms. I can still find posts from when I was 16 that, while nothing horrendous, I would rather not be associated with. Some of it is just saying stuff to say it; other parts are clearly community-based jokes that require context to see what they really mean.

Things are going to get weird really fast in the next 10-15 years. I think that's when the first group of people who grew up with the opportunity to do dumb stuff on the internet as a kid will come to power. I have no idea how older generations will react. I hope my generation will be understanding, but I have my doubts.

Posted by: Kyle McEntee | Jun 3, 2013 1:31:55 PM

I automatically post all new class blog posts onto a class Facebook and Twitter account.

http://joshblackman.com/blog/classes/property-i-spring-2013/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Property-I-Spring-2013/454139947985671
https://twitter.com/joshsclasses

For students who are already on Facebook or Twitter, I find this is an effective means to reach students who are not always up to date with their email. It is entirely optional. Maybe 1/3 of the class has joined. Though, I make it a point to never click on any student profiles.

Posted by: Josh Blackman | Jun 3, 2013 4:16:16 PM

I automatically post all new class blog posts onto a class Facebook and Twitter account.

http://joshblackman.com/blog/classes/property-i-spring-2013/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Property-I-Spring-2013/454139947985671
https://twitter.com/joshsclasses

For students who are already on Facebook or Twitter, I find this is an effective means to reach students who are not always up to date with their email. It is entirely optional. Maybe 1/3 of the class has joined. Though, I make it a point to never click on any student profiles.

Posted by: Josh Blackman | Jun 3, 2013 4:16:16 PM

You could just set up a diaspora node for your class and post to that. Email me separately if you're interested in doing this.

Posted by: Hasan Diwan | Jun 4, 2013 7:11:12 AM

1. Not everyone uses Facebook.
2. Students should keep current with their email. It is still the professional norm, not Facebook or Twitter.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 4, 2013 8:16:42 AM

Although a relative of mine is a VP at Facebook, I will not join it, because I totally disagree with their censorship policy, not to mention the total compromise of privacy. Remember, as some before me have said: the user is not the client of Facebook. The client is the advertiser and the user is no more than a product or manufacturing input. Facebook will do whatever it can get away with to satisfy the advertiser.

Posted by: jimbino | Jun 4, 2013 7:50:49 PM

Jimbino: It's a two-sided market. Everybody pays something, everybody gets some benefits. Facebook is competing for your attention, remember, so it's not wholly insensitive to user preferences.

Posted by: anon | Jun 4, 2013 8:54:54 PM

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