Students And Professors 'Friending' On Facebook

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
November 13, 2009

College students and their professors are increasingly utilizing Facebook--not just to learn more about each other, but as a teaching tool.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Peter Juvinall, who teaches technology at Illinois State University, explained at last week's Educause conference in Denver that the social networking site enhances his course. He instructs students to "friend" him on the first day of class, and then they use Facebook to post questions, submit assignments, and even chat with him live--sometimes in the middle of the night.

Juvinall also explains to students how to adjust Facebook's privacy settings to limit what he can see. At the end of the semester, he "defriends" all of his students.

Other professors are also utilizing Facebook as a teaching tool. "I find it's easier for me to distribute the information where they are," said Rebecca Wood, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who was interviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "And where they are is Facebook."

As UNLV's prelaw adviser, Wood regularly posts information for prelaw students on a Facebook page. She told the Review-Journal that the method is more effective than posting information onto the university's web site or placing notices on a bulletin board, because Facebook's news feed feature automatically alerts students to updates.

The Daily Northwestern, the campus newspaper of Northwestern University in Illinois, reports that some faculty members are using their Facebook pages to show students another side of themselves. Owen Priest, a chemistry professor at the school, accepts "friend" requests from students, although he never initiates the requests.

"I hear from students about how they can't talk to a professor because he or she is so intimidating," he explained to the Daily Northwestern. "I'm like, no they're not. So some professors use it to show that softer side, so kids can see them outside the classroom--they have pets too, they have kids."

Other professors set different boundaries with regards to "friending" students. Mary Hausch, a journalism professor at UNLV, told the Review-Journal that she only accepts friend requests from students after the semester has ended.

"I want to keep some distance there and not think of them as friends," she said in the Review-Journal. "And I don't want to see all their pictures and things out there anyway."

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