Facebook as a learning tool?

October 16, 2013 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools |


Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Can Facebook and similar tools help communities to learn? “Yes!” say Christoph Pimmer and Urs Gröhbiel, two researchers who have investigated the use of mobile phones and social software by medical students, doctors and midwives in Nepal and South-Africa. They challenge coordinators and project leaders to consider the potential of social mobile media in their projects, for reporting, networking and knowledge-exchange.

By Urs Gröhbiel and Christoph Pimmer, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland

FHNW in discussion

Photo: Apprentice bricklayers with Chirsthoph Pimmer (middle) and Urs Gröhbiel (right) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

It all started with the simple observation that Nepalese medical students used Facebook on their smartphones to engage in learning. They did not only engage in discussions about their professional identities on the basis of jokes but also solved quiz-questions and short case studies – some with multimedia content – often instead of using a high-end learning management system!

A deeper analysis of student midwives and nurses has revealed a variety of activities that are crucial for learning and communicating in a professional context: social and mobile media can facilitate professional participation, identity formation, problem solving and peer-support, the reflection of professional practices or mentoring during placements. In addition to these capacity building activities, social mobile media has also promising qualities to increase accountability of health workers. For example, the Ethiopia Public Health Officers Association uses its Facebook page to discuss challenges facing their members and potential solutions; or, an app of IntraHealth Int. helps to report presence (and absence) of health workers.

Of course the team from the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland has also identified several limitations and risks. The knowledge exchange based on social software is often ad-hoc and ephemeral and there are no mechanisms to control the quality of the individual contributions. In addition, the designers of online communities have to consider carefully aspects like the level of moderation, the commitment and media literacy skills of participants  – and relationships and hierarchies within the communities .

To better understand the potential and limitations of mobile devices and social media in a development context, Urs Gröhbiel and Christoph Pimmer plan to compare scenarios of professional training in health and education in different global areas.

Development cooperation itself could serve as an excellent case to find out how social mobile media can support learning and communication between a central coordination and many decentralised actors in different communities. The researchers are therefore looking for actors who are interested to pioneer in this fascinating field.

How do you experience the use of social mobile media in learning and networking?

Further links


Comments to“Facebook as a learning tool?”

  1. Nadejda Loumbeva says:

    Thank you for the very interesting blog post! Most definitely, there is potential in social media in bridging across geographically distributed groups and communities. This is especially the case when it comes down to Head Office – Country Office relationships. How exactly that happens though, and whether Facebook would be the right tool, is another matter. To explore further…. Best, Nadia

  2. Katharina Haeberli Harker says:

    I like this idea. Just a question to the experts (I am still a beginner with facebook):

    – how can I restrict the circle of my facebook friends to my DDLG friends if and when I post on DDLG?


  3. Blog-Admin says:

    Dear Katharina,

    First, you will need to create a list called, for example, “DDLG”. This can be done if you just choose one friend you have on facebook, go on their profile, and then click on the “friends” tab (you can find this in the background picture of the person). There, choose “add to another list” in the “friends” tab and create your new list “DDLG”.

    Identify all the friends that are related to DDLG and make sure that they are in that list.

    When posting something that is only relevant to those friends, choose the “DDLG” list in the selector next to “post”.

    That should do the trick.

    Your Learning & Networking blog team


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