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I'm starting a master's degree in the autumn, and I recently received an email from the university inviting me to join the Facebook page for the course.

However, I don't currently have an active Facebook account -- I deleted my account several years ago due to concerns about privacy as well as its overall usefulness. (Mostly a case of "so why am I spending time on this site?")

Is there any explicit advantage I would get by joining the course's Facebook page, or equivalently, is there any disadvantage of not joining?

EDIT: I understand there is not likely to be an explicit requirement to join the group as official communication will be via email and university websites. I'm asking more from the point of view of networking, socializing, etc. Would the lack of Facebook be a handicap?

EDIT: Clarification: By "course" I mean the UK definition: The course is the entire year-long degree program. In this instance, the department has created a Facebook page for everybody who is doing the same degree program starting this year, and that's what they invited me to. However, my question applies to other possible applications of Facebook as well.

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I think top-level universities actively discourage the use of any off-site resources for teaching. The Facebook may in fact have pretty dangerous impact on academic performance. –  Dmitry Savostyanov Jul 14 at 12:33
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"Is Facebook a necessary tool for a student?" The answer is no. –  TylerH Jul 14 at 18:00
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It depends on what you study and whom you study with frankly. I've "needed" facebook, because for assignments with other people, we'd upload our part of the work on a facebook group we had created. (I'd much rather have used OneDrive or another cloud-hosting service, rather than social media, but you have to go with the group I guess. ) –  Dylan Meeus Jul 14 at 19:26
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Ive been pretty surprised by these answers. As a current undergrad every student i know but a few (i mean like 2 to 3) have a facebook, and student groups have been noticeably useful especially for group work. Why NOT have a facebook? You can turn off the news feed and use it as a social tool, no loss at all in my view. –  rch Jul 15 at 6:04
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@TylerH The answer is no in my university, we have a facebook group for sharing important notes and notices that really help students. I can doubtlessly say that this group has taught me more and faster than any professor in a one-to-one tutoring. –  Francisco Presencia Jul 15 at 11:17

11 Answers 11

Is there any explicit advantage I would get by joining the course's Facebook page

If you want to interact with your classmates on Facebook before starting the course, then joining the page would enable this.

or equivalently, is there any disadvantage of not joining?

If you don't feel a need to do the above, then no. There is no reason to expect this to be any kind of handicap. You will have plenty of chances to interact with your classmates face to face, when the course starts.

Facebook is a useful marketing tool for universities, which is why they invited you to join the page. If you personally don't want to interact with others on Facebook (for very understandable reasons), then there is no need to join the page.

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He didn't even say which university and course he's talking about, you can't know if their use of facebook will be important or not! This is a very bad answer! –  Lohoris Jul 16 at 8:58
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@Lohoris no it is not. No respectable university would force the students to join its page on facebook. If you are aware of one that does, please tell us, but I sincerely doubt it –  Ant Jul 16 at 12:07
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@Ant the university would not force him, but the students theselves might do it anyway and important information could be shared there by the students themselves. –  Lohoris Jul 16 at 14:05
    
@Lohoris It is true. But apart from organisational issues, and maybe some advices from classmates (that are accessibile anyway) it is certainly not necessary, so knowing the university and the course is superfluous. So unless you can provide examples of some particular university / course, I have to say that your first comment is not pertinent. –  Ant Jul 16 at 14:11
    
@Articuno Experience is considered a valid source on Stack Exchange in general. The Question is is not about a rigorously defined academic subject, but about experience. I believe it is perfectly valid to counter an answer based on experience with something else based on experience. Claiming that the answer assumes near-perfect information would not be sufficient to make the answer bad, as it's possible the answerer does actually have sufficient information. An example of an experience counter to the one given, on the other hand, is enough to show that there is a lack of information. –  trlkly Jul 16 at 18:51

Without knowing how Facebook will be used by the instructor and fellow students in this course it is impossible to predict if you will be at a disadvantage for not signing up.

My school had some basic communication tools built into its course management software that were clunky and difficult to use, not to mention completely unavailable on mobile devices. This lead to many students turning to other more accessible, more widely used means (like Facebook groups) to manage communications within their study groups.

You should contact the instructor directly before the class starts and ask how or if they intend the class to use the group. If they plan to rely on the group, that will be your answer. If they do not, keep hold of the reply. It may be useful to produce it at a later date if you do miss some important Facebook related communication from her.

Even if the group is not used in an official capacity, if a significant portion of your classmates use Facebook, you may miss out on a lot without the others even realizing they are excluding you. Or it may be that like yourself most of your classmates are disengaged from Facebook, and there will be no loss.

In either case, unless as ff524 suggests, you want to engage in networking with your classmates before the course starts, you can put off making the decision on joining until you know more.

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I agree with everything you say, but final sentence could be better. What the instructor intends may not be as relevant if the students themselves find that Facebook is better than the school-provided online meeting place. They may discuss things on Facebook but only take what absolutely needs instructor input to the official site. Finding out from the instructor is useful, but not sufficient. Also check with your classmates. –  trlkly Jul 16 at 19:12
    
@trlkly I had thought the rest of the answer made it clear that regardless of the instructor's intent, the other students might use it. Nevertheless, I expanded that sentence and reorganized to clarify. I'm happier with the result than the original, so thanks for the feedback. –  Mr.Mindor Jul 16 at 23:50

Yes, there is an advantage besides the normal socializing one.

There will probably be a group for your year or the years before.

In this group people will share experiences with courses, questions&answers, solutions to homework and various other stuff.

Also, it could be that there might even be some teachings assistants in these groups which can help during homework and/or before the exam preparations.

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Or you could, you know, hang out at the pub. –  JeffE Jul 14 at 16:50
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@JeffE Pups don't support asynchronous communication. In general I support your argument but this is the wrong place for it. It's like saying that SE is useless because "you could hang out at the pub" instead. The facebook groups simply serve as a localized forum in this place. In addition, it's highly attractive because everybody already is on facebook and joining a group is simple. –  bamboon Jul 14 at 16:54
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everybody already is on facebook — [citation needed] Seriously, this is less and less true over time. –  JeffE Jul 14 at 20:08
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@JeffE: But the fact remains that a given group may communicate mostly on Facebook (or any other platform) -- if you are not on there, you can easily be left out. Yes, that's sad, but it has always been true: if you did not go to the pub everybody went to, you'd be left out, too. –  Raphael Jul 15 at 5:23
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My objection is to the opening sentence: Yes, there is an advantage besides the normal socializing one. "You might be left out if you don't" is the normal socializing one. –  JeffE Jul 15 at 5:33

I think there are some terms which should be defined in order to understand the question:

  • By course do you mean a semester-long sequence of lectures and exams in one subject? This is the US usage, while in other places module is used. In those places course means what in the US is called a degree program: the set of courses/modules taken to complete the degree.

  • Are you asked to "like" a Facebook page or "join" a Facebook group? Both have been used interchangeably in this discussion but they are not the same. A Facebook page is used by an organization for self-promotion and broadcasting information. It's mainly a one-way tool, though likers can comment and (sometimes, depending on settings) post. A Facebook group can be official or unofficial but is used for multi-way communication among its members.

If a course-as-in-degree-program is asking you to like their Facebook page, it's probably just to open up another line of communication to you. For instance, they might use it to broadcast that the university is closed for bad weather, and you can get that information before checking your email. You can do this without using Facebook for anything else; you don't have to interact with the other fans of the page. I believe fans aren't privy to who is and isn't a fellow fan.

If a course-as-in-degree-program is asking you to join a Facebook group, it might be more for discussion as for a group, but would still be non-academic. Perhaps they want to collect opinions about services. Group members are able to see the list of group members, so you would be known. But you don't have to be (Facebook) friends with the fellow group members, so you can interact with the group and keep the other members at arm's length.

If a course-as-in-module is asking you to like their Facebook page, it's going to be academic but still mainly broadcast. I've done this in my large lecture courses to announce when slides are posted or reminders about due dates. These are useful to get extra communication to the students, but they should not be used to publish anything that's not also on a university website. If you find that there is original course material published on Facebook, you might want to raise concern.

If a course-as-in-module is asking you to join a Facebook group, it's likely that it's for academic discussion. This can be beneficial as others have pointed out. And the interface is familiar to most students so the content can be quite rich. But if the Facebook discussion is to be graded that's the most problematic combination. Joining Facebook requires individuals to sacrifice a considerable amount of privacy, and I think it's not fair for university officials to explicitly require that consent to participate in instruction. If you have a problem with joining Facebook and the instructor wants you do so for a grade, you should definitely be concerned.

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Thanks for your answer; in response to your questions, by course I mean the British definition, i.e. course means your degree program, and they have asked me to join a group for the course, not just like a page. Although my question isn't specifically for "should I join the group", it can over other instances as well. –  CaptainCodeman Jul 15 at 20:46
    
@CaptainCodeman: in that case I think there's no harm in joining and only good that can come out of extra communication with your classmates. –  Matthew Leingang Jul 16 at 14:34

I see there are plenty of answers already, let me provide my experience with a similar situation.

I used to have a Facebook account which used to be useful at the time for interaction with friends & distant family. I moved abroad for studies and the Facebook became even more important in terms of interaction.

However, the priority of the studies was much higher than the interaction; It took me about 3-4 months to notice that Facebook in fact was doing more damage than help. Everyone wants to check if you are doing fine in the new environment etc but to them it is just a msg, to you that is multiple of msgs to multiple people (quadratic or exponential work?!?)

Basically, I deactivated the original account, created a new one with different name/surname which I use for the course. If they are not strictly checking for the credentials do the same.

In the more general view; keep in mind that students create groups in Facebook where they share exam, housing, event etc info. That might be handy.

Long story short, account with similarities in name and details, without display picture, and NO ADDED FRIENDS

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I actually find this requirement a bit odd. Kids are leaving Facebook en masse for other, more private forms of communication (namely, tools their parents can't join and subsequently see what they've been posting). So assuming the whole class will actively use Facebook for extracurricular communication is almost old fashioned.

Edit: The moment your kids hear you say "I've set up a Facebook group for this class..." they will silently groan and think "This is why I quit using Facebook." To them, we are the uncool crowd. Just use your school's Moodle/Blackboard/whatever forum for that. It's kludgy and they hate it, but they have to use it for all their other classes anyway. That solution is already in place for just this purpose.

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You are talking of facebook as if it was myspace. –  bamboon Jul 14 at 18:24
    
@bamboon you're right, I am. WhatsApp has half a billion users, most of whom left Facebook for the service before it was bought. Not to mention SnapChat, which has over 200M active users. And kids who use these services talk of it with an almost bourgeois attitude, which helps drive the growth. –  Jonathan Landrum Jul 14 at 18:35
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What requirement? Who said joining the Facebook page was a requirement for anything? –  David Richerby Jul 14 at 18:40
    
Yeah, but those are not the areas we are talking about here. Snapchat is anyway just for the lulz. Whatsapp has probably taken quite some share from the chat traffic of facebook but facebook-groups offers message board like features which are important for the group sizes we are talking about here(hundreds). Besides all of that, the question can easily be generalized to be about social service X. –  bamboon Jul 14 at 18:44
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@Raphael, but their parents/grandparents can't see the messages. That's what I meant by privacy. –  Jonathan Landrum Jul 15 at 11:43

As Matthew's answer says, you need to better define the terms. That is an important research skill, anyway.

Obviously, there cannot be any official FB pages for courses-as-modules/classes. Instructors who use FB as their main communication vehicle can be easily found in violation of the university's IT security practices via exposing the educational material that the university collects the money for on a platform that is not protected well enough. Even if an instructor only runs a FB page for their convenience, they still cut you out, and you have all the grounds to file a formal complaint with them to their department chairs saying that they discriminate in access to the course information against FB non-users (although the remainder of the class will probably oust you out, and you will be considered a weirdo for the rest of your time in the program).

So having ruled a course-as-in-module/class page out, I can imagine a course-as-in-degree/program may have an FB page for intermittent announcements: news about a graduate being mentioned in NY Times, a faculty member receiving a good chunk of NSF money, a formal visit of the program by the Chancellor, may be more technical stuff like colloquia announcements. Probably nothing you cannot leave without. (Avoiding triple negations is another important practical skill that will definitely make your writing much clearer :) ). So they will give you a little nudge to join, but if FB does not fit your lifestyle, not having access to it will not be the end of the world.

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Facebook pages for Courses offered by Universities are a advantageous for the University since

  1. This a indirect mass media publicity.
  2. This helps build a connected medium of students.
  3. Opinions can come in a velocity not achievable by normal methods.

It is also advantageous for you

  1. You get to meet your crowd.
  2. There will be enough people to collaborate that you don't need another medium

About the privacy fear that we all have, it should be taken care if you only add people you know. Also there are options to share things only to people you specifically mention. Privacy is a great option which lesser amount of people use, but my personal advice is that since its a University just let it flow.

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Isn't the "privacy fear" less about contacts that get to see the messages because we didn't properly configure the privacy settings (which we can do something about) and more about the company that runs Facebook, the legislation it is subject to and potential misbehavior of people within that company (which we can do nothing about)? At least that would be the primary reason why I probably wouldn't be allowed to provide any teaching materials for students exclusively via FB, thus forcing students to join, in the first place. –  O. R. Mapper Jul 15 at 16:13
    
@O.R.Mapper Absolutely true, but I'd call that being paranoid unless you are doing something really covert in there. There are restrictions imposed on companies on usage of our personal data anything otherwise will entitle you to file a lawsuit against them. That being said it's completely normal to be paranoid, considering the advancement of AI, machine learning and that our data is with the behemoths of this field. –  Jerric Lyns John Jul 15 at 16:33
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Handling data about students, what they are studying, and possibly how well they are doing, is certainly something that needs to be kept covert. If I were transferring such data via a 3rd party service, that would entitle the students to file a lawsuit against me. –  O. R. Mapper Jul 15 at 16:40
    
@O.R.Mapper The real question is "How many of us read the Terms of Services?". The whole concept of social media and its data collection strategy flourished because of the "Terms of Service" where we are agreeing on usage of our data. But when we enable a privacy option there exists a scenario that those data will not be given away to any other 3rd parties by the service provider. –  Jerric Lyns John Jul 15 at 16:59
    
The terms of service are irrelevant. Handing the data to the third party is the critical activity that can lead to a lawsuit, as the service provider is bound to the laws of their respective country, no matter what they initially promise in the terms of service. –  O. R. Mapper Jul 15 at 17:18

Lots students use facebook to communicate with classmates, academic and social groups. Some instructors create facebook groups to have central place for students to communicate.

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This doesn't answer the question: whether OP will miss out on anything by not joining, etc. –  ff524 Jul 17 at 8:32

I don't see a big advantage to joining facebook. Not joining facebook is probably better on the longer term. Employers are looking at facebook pages of the people applying for work. So, unless you use your facebook account in a way that makes you look like a nerd who no one wants to socialize with, there are no points to be earned here.

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This may be good advice in general but does not in any way answer the question. –  Mr.Mindor Jul 16 at 23:56

I would rather say there is nothing in the world which do not have disadvantages or advantages.Its up to you how are using it. Take an example of a Computer , you can use it for programming,studies and hell lot of advantageous activities \at the same time u can it to waste your time by playing games and watching movies etc(Look playing game or watching movies etc are not bad at all but if this kind activities will not appreciated if you are doing them by ignoring the priority work).If You see it in a positive way Facebook is one the best way to stay connected with society but if we don't know value of time or have self control then I thinks its our fault. "Use the advantages and ignore the disadvantages."

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This doesn't really answer the question about being invited to join university page, whether OP will miss out on anything by not joining, etc. It's just a generic comment on Facebook. –  ff524 Jul 17 at 8:31

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