Honestly, I have never taken into account Facebook as a potential tool for teaching and learning. I would never recommend to be friend with your students, and vice versa would never expect that students’ would be friends with their teachers. Simply put, there are too many private aspects that it is good to keep separated between students and teachers. With my great surprise, I instead discovered a rich literature on the topic: it is at least 10 years that there exist empirical observations on the adoption and effects of Facebook in teaching and learning activities [1]. In particular, the typical way of working is to create groups for a course: with the right settings, group members are only students, possibly together with teachers, without the need of being friends on Facebook [2]. This indeed is a reasonable approach, that alleviates a lot of the doubts related to privacy, both for the teacher and the students: in fact, a group creates a kind of private island on Facebook where students and teachers can discuss and share material while avoiding the issues related to privacy. Notably, a group can be completely hidden to the rest of Facebook users and the access can be granted upon invitation.

Image found somewhere on the web

From an engagement perspective, using Facebook looks promising for enhancing students’ interests. Everyone uses this social network, there is no need to install other apps, or to have a special account on a laptop. Even more interesting, it has been noticed that using Facebook implicitly creates a mixture of classroom and social life, which promotes a sense of community. In turn, the community building improves the learning climate, which is considered a positive factor for teaching and learning. This is undoubtedly a nice side-effect, and as a matter of fact my personal experiences with other virtual forums is that students tend to show low interactions with official communication means. Or, in other words, they see official platforms as a way of grading and/or tracking study activities, so they avoid them in the same way they are typically reluctant in publicly asking questions or volunteering to answer a question from the teacher.

The potential drawbacks of adopting Facebook as part of the course delivery is first of all the usual risks of using a social network: exclusion of certain students, inappropriate messages, mobbing, etc. These problems are strictly related to the trade-off between teacher-managed and self-managed groups: research studies have suggested that the presence of teachers should be limited or completely avoided [3, 4]. In this way, the mentioned issues are difficult to control. 

To conclude, a Facebook group with low/no teacher presence looks not that much as an engagement tool for learning straightaway, rather a nicer communication means for students that could use it to self-organise, and maybe also discuss course topics among other things.

1. Chugh, R., Ruhi, U. Social media in higher education: A literature review of Facebook. Educ Inf Technol 23, 605–616 (2018). 

2. Michael Todorovic, Elisabeth Coyne, Vinod Gopalan, Youn Oh, Lila Landowski & Matthew Barton (2020) Twelve tips for using Facebook as a learning platform, Medical Teacher, DOI: 10.1080/0142159X.2020.1854708

3. Toker, S., Baturay, M.H. What foresees college students’ tendency to use facebook for diverse educational purposes?. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 16, 9 (2019).

4. Johannesen, M., Mifsud, L. & Øgrim, L. Identifying Social Presence in Student Discussions on Facebook and Canvas. Tech Know Learn 24, 641–657 (2019).

Could be Facebook a good tool for students’ engagement?