Facebook v Moodle

Brian MulliganThere’s an interesting thread on the integration of Moodle and Facebook on the moodle.org forums (easy to register) which I intend to pick up on in my keynote at tomorrow’s UK Moodlemoot. Brian Mulligan, who will supply you liberally with Guinness and fine folk music at his local if you ever visit him in Sligo, kicks it off by expressing his concerns that Facebook is so popular with students that it might at some stage supplant Moodle. Other contributors mention privacy, security and advertising as problems with Facebook – and the fact that it relies on one list of “friends” while with Moodle you get a different (and correct) group of coursemates with each course you’re studying.

Facebook is simply a different animal from Moodle and is not going to work well for formal learning where students need to be grouped together with a tutor or teacher for the duration of a course. Michael Penny notes that it’s a big enough challenge as it is for institutions to get students into the right courses – and also that you need to record grades securely. There are many more reasons why Facebook is not currently ideal for formal learning and why Moodle isn’t as good as Facebook for social networking.

However there is potential for transferring information between the two systems and Martin Dougiamas chips in later in the debate with his thoughts on how to do this. The first is to send Facebook information to Moodle using their APIs. Good thinking but Facebook’s APIs are mainly designed to suck content in from Flickr, blogs etc. It’s not in Facebook’s interest to have you view Facebook info in another application and miss out on their advertisements…

Secondly Martin suggests exporting useful stuff from Moodle into Facebook. This is indeed a good idea. One can imagine all sorts of RSS feeds such as wiki updates and course news being sent to the environment students are using all the time for social purposes.

Finally Martin thinks some of the best bits of Moodle could be replicated inside Facebook. At the OU we’re experimenting with the development of Facebook applications for studying (see Martin Weller’s recent post on the subject). It will be extremely interesting to see which bits of VLE functionality are going to work for students inside Facebook – and whether learners would rather maintain a separation between study and social life.

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