Facebook has been described as a walled garden, but following a recent announcement that users can download their own data we found that Planet Facebook has become less of a Walled Garden, with Steve Repetti, chair of the Data Portability Project, feeling that this news was “A step in the right direction“. But could Facebook evolve to be something more than just a social networking service and be used as an e-learning delivery platform?
Back in 2007 Michael Webb, Director of IT Services at the University of Wales, Newport described “MyNewport – MyLearning Essentials for Facebook“, a Facebook application that allows students to access to Newport’s MyLearning Essentials resources from Facebook.
Michael described how this “allows students to start creating their own personal learning environment in a platform other than the one provided by the University“, adding that “we’ve targeted Facebook at the moment as it’s the fastest growing community, but if our users like the idea but want to work in another environment then that is fine – we can create applications for them as well“.
How much development effort did this take, you may wonder? “It took about a day and half from conception of the idea and joining the Facebook developer community on 10th July to launching it as a viable application for our students to use (or comment on) on the 11th July. It was straight forward as our VLE is built from components that can easily be repurposed, and uses open standards such as RSS to allow information to be passed to the Facebook application.”
Since then I’ve not been aware of much discussion about development of Facebook applications to support institutional requirements, apart from a document on COURSE PROFILES – A Facebook Application for Open University Students and Alumni written by Tony Hirst, Liam Green-Hughes, Stuart Brown and Martin Weller. Until Friday, that is, when I came across an article in Computer Weekly which described how “London School of Business and Finance offers MBA on Facebook“:
“Facebook users can now study an MBA for free at the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) after the college launched a course that will be available on the social networking website.
Students will be able to study for free and will only pay if they want to be formally assessed for an MBA. The LSBF GlobalMBA, which has received £7.5m investment, is awarded by the University of Wales.
Valery Kisilevsky, group managing director of the London School of Business and Finance, said Facebook was chosen to host its The LSBF GlobalMBA application because it offered the chance to widen the availability of education.
‘We looked at how our current students communicate with each other and the college and Facebook is the platform of choice‘ said Kisilevsky.“
Now the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) isn’t a University, rather it’s an “educational institution [which] offers industry-focussed programmes designed to reflect global market trends. LSBF attracts the most talented and ambitious candidates from more than 150 countries worldwide“. The Web site goes on to sate that LSBF “offers an unrivalled portfolio of professional qualifications, as well as innovative degree programmes at postgraduate and undergraduate level, with the flexibility to tailor your studies to your own career aspirations“.
Is LSBF setting a trend in exploiting a popular global social networking environment which could provide a cost-effective solution appropriate for today’s economic environment? Or will it be seen to be irrelevant? I don’t think we can say. But I think we do need to keep an eye out on weak signals which may hint at possible trends, especially those that might go against our preferred visions of future developments.
So is anyone engaged in development work using the Facebook platform? And what lessons can be learnt from the early work at Newport and the Open University?