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Social Media & Collaborative Learning – Facebook


Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg, then a 23-year-old student at Harvard, in 2004. Originally geared towards students at universities and later at high schools, Facebook became available to the public in September 2006 (Phillips, 25 July 2007). Facebook has continued to grow in terms of its technological capabilities and number of participants. Statista (n.d.) reports that as of the third quarter of 2016, 1.79 billion users have at least monthly active participation in Facebook.

Facebook in Education

One of the most common uses of Facebook in education is to facilitate student discussions outside of the classroom. For example, Liu (2016) reported on a group of student teachers in Taiwan that were assigned to participate in a Facebook group during their student teaching. This study found that browsing the postings in this Facebook group led to a sense of community and a perception of having learned collaboratively. It also found that those who posted frequently experienced the advantages of working collaboratively (Liu, 2016). Similarly, Magogwe, Ntereke, and Phetlhe (2015) report on the successful use of Facebook to facilitate group work and collaboration on a class presentation for an Advanced Oral Presentation Skills class at a university in Botswana. These examples are typical of the literature detailing the use of Facebook in education.

Many tools that are used in education today mimic Facebook by including discussion board capabilities. For example, Schoology, which is used at Colorado State University – Global Campus includes a very Facebook-like discussion board that is used in each class. Also, I am currently taking a class from a company called Insync Training through my employer. This class uses Moodle, which also includes a discussion board. So I’ve been thinking about whether it is better to use a discussion board within a learning management system or to use Facebook. Some students have concerns about privacy with Facebook (Magogwe et al., 2015). While you can use a closed group in Facebook to restrict the discussion to members of the class, a learning management system offers more privacy and security. But advantages of Facebook over a discussion board in a learning management system are that students are already familiar with Facebook and many are in the habit of checking Facebook regularly. This familiarity may promote more frequent posting. Facebook also might be more convenient for many students. But probably the main advantage of Facebook over a learning management system is that Facebook is free. A teacher who does not have access to a learning management system can easily and quickly implement a class discussion group in Facebook.

Facebook in Corporate Training

The use of Facebook in a corporate training environment may be very similar to the use of Facebook in a school-based educational environment. Individuals learning in a corporate environment can reap the same benefits of community and collaboration using Facebook that students do. For example, Abbasi (2016) suggests that corporate training environments create a Facebook page for each training program or course and use it to facilitate discussion among the people engaged in the course. However, my sense is that many corporations are more concerned about privacy than educational institutions are. Just as schools could host discussion groups within their learning management system instead of on Facebook, companies have other opportunities for hosting discussions. For example, the company I work for (in addition to having a learning management system) has implemented a tool called Chatter, which is a product of (, 2016). Chatter works very much like Facebook, allowing you to write posts, comment and like posts, create groups, and so on. An internal corporate training team could easily use either Facebook or an enterprise tool such as Chatter to conduct online class discussions in much the way that schools do.

Using Facebook

Many people already have Facebook accounts and getting a Facebook account is very easy. Just go to and complete the form shown here and follow the instructions on any additional screens:


If you’ve got a smart phone, you probably want to download the Facebook app. I use Facebook pretty much exclusively on my phone.

Rather than focusing on how to join Facebook, I will instead explain how to create a private group within Facebook, since that is a task that educators and training developers might use, but might not already know how to do.

  1. Log in to Facebook at


  1. Along the left side of the page, locate the CREATE heading, and click on Group.


  1. In the Create New Group widget, enter a name for your group.
  2. Enter the names or email address of people you want to add to your group. You will be able to add more people later. Facebook pulls up a list of your current Facebook friends who match the text you enter and suggests other friends you might add.


  1. Select the privacy setting that you want.
  2. Optionally check the box to add this group to your favorites.
  3. Click the Create button.


  1. Select an icon to represent your group and click OK or click Skip to proceed without adding an icon.


Your group is created and you are taken to your group page, where you can upload a photo to represent the group, write posts, add members, add a description of the page and tags that will allow people to search for the group, and more.

Learn More about Facebook


Abbasi, I. (2016). Get social. TD: Talent Development70(3), 26-28.

Liu, S. (2016). The perceptions of participation in a mobile collaborative learning among pre-service teachers. Journal of Education and Learning5(1), 87-94.

Magogwe, J. M., Ntereke, B., & Phetlhe, K. R. (2015). Facebook and classroom group work: A trial study involving University of Botswana Advanced Oral Presentation students. British Journal of Educational Technology46(6), 1312-1323.

Phillips, S. (25 July 2007). A brief history of Facebook. Retrieved from (2016). Chatter. Retrieved from

Statista. (n.d.) Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 3rd quarter 2016 (in millions). Retrieved from


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