Yesterday, Facebook announced the introduction of a new platform — Groups for Schools. As Wired Campus points out, this harkens back to the early days of Facebook, when it used to be limited to just college students and alumni who had university-issued email addresses. According to the Groups for Schools Help Center, the new Groups for Schools platform is not yet available for all higher ed institutions and will be accessible only to Facebook users with an active college-issued email address.
Only students and faculty of a college or university can join groups for schools. When you join a group within the school community, you can share files, create events, message other members and stay up-to-date on what’s happening around campus.
So, despite the “Schools” name, it does not look like Facebook plans to make these new groups available to even high school users.
I blog about and teach classes on using Facebook for instruction and other educational purposes, but based on the limited amount of information Facebook has shared thus far, I have mixed feelings about this new platform, and I will share specific likes and dislikes once I can actually get my hands on the new Groups for Schools platform (my university is not included in the initial roll-out).
For now though, based on what I have read, these are features that I think are key to getting faculty and other higher ed Group administrators to embrace and champion the new Groups for Schools.
- Bring back the ability for Group administrators to invite members via email address: I have harped on this issue before. Instructors, and other Group administrators, need to be able to import from existing class and team contact lists.
- Allow existing Groups to be converted into Groups for Schools: I use the existing Groups platform heavily as online discussion spaces for several campus committees and teams on which I serve. These teams could highly benefit from the Groups for Schools platform, yet according to the Facebook Help Center, it will not be possible to convert existing Groups to the Schools format.
- Allow Facebook Pages to be added as a Group member: Another I have raised this issue before as well. Think of the possibilities! Class Groups could benefit tremendously by allowing our Library page to be a member, allowing our librarians to answer research questions or suggest resources related to an assignment. Without this functionality, individual librarians would have to be added to each Group — not an efficient or ideal solution.
- Bring back threaded discussion forums: Harped on this one before. Threaded discussion forums are much more useful than wall posts and comments for managing classroom discussions.
- Expand video chat to Groups: Another plea I have made in prior posts. Unlike Google+ Hangouts, Facebook’s newish video chat service is still only available for one-on-one conversations. This would be so valuable for instructors to hold virtual office hours, and for students to be able to conduct video interviews with outside experts.
What other features or changes would you like to see come out of the new Groups for Schools?