Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Facebook as social glue - and how to avoid getting unstuck

Using Facebook to support student induction is without doubt a hot topic at present. Here's a report by Physorg.com on Facebook as 'social glue'. Much of what they say echoes what I found in the evaluation our Freshers' Facebook group, and in the responses to questionnaires I have been sending out in relation to my study of language use and self representation in Facebook. The most frequently named benefit to the Fresher's group was being able to make new friends easily, so that as one student put it, they 'felt better about the impending course'.

Of course, proving a causal link between improving the stickiness of your social glue and the rather more sticky issues of progression and retention is less than easy to sustain. A preliminary report on BCU's Facebook trial for the BA (hons) Visual Communication and BA (Hons) Media and Communication found that positive anecdotal feedback couldn't be causally linked to overall retention statistics at the end of the year. The report written by my colleague Andy Saxon provided a very useful list of tips if you do want to set up a group, which I reiterate here:
  • Provide each potential student with the web address for the group in a carefully worded letter
  • Link to the Facebook group from the departmental website, posters around the department on open days and so on.
  • Don't have your Facebook group as part of 'network'
  • Ensure that the Facebook group leader is familiar with FB and its culture.
  • Make sure your videos are fairly short and that pictures are low resolution.


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