Today we have a large variety of tools available to us for social learning, the most notable being front-runners Facebook and Twitter. There have been many suggestions on how to use twitter to supplement learning, but less has been written about Facebook supplementing learning efforts – which begs the question: can Facebook be a tool for elearning?
Facebook is such a widely used platform that most everyone will have an account, so it becomes easy to network and interact with other virtual students. What’s more, most people know how to use Facebook, so they don’t have to learn yet another platform before learning can take place. It’s also relatively easy to create apps for Facebook, making it a great canvas for developers to add cool new functionality. If you have a nifty Facebook app, you can get users involved pretty quickly.
Facebook isn’t used for learning – plain and simple. In fact, many people use Facebook for the opposite of learning: procrastination. Housing any type of learning program or supplement learning program presents the users with the temptation to wander away from the topic at hand to go browse the new pictures added by their friends from the previous weekend. Learning is usually most effective when the environment can be contained.
In the end, I don’t believe Facebook is very conducive to elearning. I think this is the result of the very nature of Facebook (which is still hard to pinpoint). Essentially, its roots are in entertainment and escapism. As a result, forcing a productive learning exercise with Facebook isn’t ideal. Perhaps the best way to use this platform is to supplement learning where possible, but it certainly shouldn’t be a driver for any learning initiative.
If you don’t want to use Facebook for learning, but like the Facebook functionality, you can create a “Facebook like” LMS using the free BuddyPress WordPress plugin. This will allow you to create user profile pages that mirror what Facebook has on their site. Students can leave comments, share interests, and network with others. What’s more, BuddyPress also integrates seamlessly with LearnDash, so creating a robust LMS using WordPress is as easy as clicking button.