As everyone knows, in its original form Facebook was a social networking website for American students. Members were linked via networks based around universities. As it spread globally membership was restricted to those with an .edu, .ac.uk type email address. Later networks were developed for High Schools and some businesses. Late in 2006 membership was opened to anyone with an email address.
In its original form The Facebook carried an application called Courses, this brought together students following the same course and made it possible for students to identify and contact their peers (invaluable for students popular courses). Keen observers of Facebook will have noticed that this application has disappeared, has been withdrawn, is no more.
A mention of its withdrawal can be found in the Facebook blog.
"The initial version of the Courses application was created by Facebook to give you as much functionality as possible. As of today, we're turning off our version of Courses and have decided to turn this over to the developer community and let you – our users – decide which Courses application works best for you. In many ways, our developer community is the best suited to create the applications that help people connect, track, and collaborate with their teachers, professors, and classmates. Many of our developers are in school and have used some kind of collaboration software. Their experiences make them the ideal creators of useful education applications."I'm not convinced by this argument. Really what Facebook are saying here is we've grown and changed, many members don't come from college networks, so the Course application is no longer part of our core mission.
It's somewhat ironic that as HE academics take an interest in Facebook, Facebook begins to distance itself from it's roots.
Back in August the TUC issued advice for employers and their staff.
Should we be discussing these issues with students?
Our American colleagues have much more experience of Facebook as a learning tool. These slightly dated notes from Unit Structures may be of use.
Should we be discussing these issues with academics?