Landing : Athabascau University

Comparing Facebook, the Landing and LMS

The new issue of IRRODL has a very interesting article on a graduate course that was delivered in FaceBook, as opposed to the university's LMS.

see  MEISHAR-TAL, H., KURTZ, G., PIETERSE, E.. (2012) Facebook groups as LMS: A case study. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 13(4) .

The article does a good job of over viewing the pros and cons of both platforms and provides descriptive stats and code summaries of student responses gathered from a questionnaire, during a one course pilot study.  Of course the sample was that terribly over studied group of over students- those enrolled in graduate courses in education technology - not exactly a random sample of all students!

Nonetheless as I read the article, I was comparing the Landing's features to both LMS and Facebook.  Most readers are likely familiar with the arguments against the LMS (lack of persistence, authority, instructivist pedagogy embedded) and the arguments for (common platform for all students/courses, security, analytics on student activities, institutional support etc.), so I won't repeat these, but as I stated the article is worth a read for this review alone.

Matching the Landing up, on the issues of ownership and control - Facebook is much more equalitarian and supportive of student control and ownership than the LMS, but ownership gets complicated because of Facebook's corporate presence and the selling of user activity data to advertisers. But this non-commercial freedom for the Landing comes at a cost of maintenance, hosting and development of the Landings ELGG environment and the creation of custom plugins, upon which we do quite a bit of development work (one full time programmer).

Seems the Landings organizational and file management of content is more similar to and we argue as good as a typical LMS, whereas Facebook group content all crowds onto the sequential 'wall'. This I think is the biggest argument for the Landing over Facebook.  A few students commented negatively on the blurring of personal and school work, which is similar on the Landing, except that at least for now, the Landing's social interactions are with members of the larger Athabasca community only (not so many pictures of the cute kids!) 

The students seemed to appreciate and like the synchronous chat feature of Facebook and the notification of other group members who were online in real time. We have not implemented this feature on the Landing, partially because the current plugin does not allow one to see presence of particular group members only, and we feared some participants MIGHT not like their realtime presence being exposed to the whole landing community. But perhaps we need to revisit that and actually implement one of the chat plugins that could be used on the Landing.

I'd be interested in any other comments on this article or on comparisons between the Landing and Facebook


  • Maureen Mackey November 4, 2012 - 4:17pm

    I appreciate both the detailed comparisons the authors make between Facebook and a conventional LMS as well as their description of a “case study” in delivering a graduate instructional technology course using Facebook instead of a traditional LMS. 

    Differences between a Facebook Group and a Conventional LMS (Meishar-Tal, Kurtz & Pieterse, 2012)

    Difference LMS Facebook (FB)
    1. Ownership   educational institution

    free of charge, no maintenance required, yet content backup and privacy issues; who owns the knowledge? (learners and educators)

    2. Login   username and password FB profile, requirement to have a FB account
    3. Creating/sharing content  range of powerful tools

    added the capability of adding files directly in 2012 (after this 2011 course)

    4. Content management  educator creates the content to be consumed by the students (instructivist paradigm) educators and students share permissions
    5. Organizing content  instructor 

    organization of FB pushes new material to the top making access to older material challenging while contributing to the dynamism

    6. Relationship between content & interaction  separate

    interaction built into the content (FB is not designed to be solely a repository)

    7. Synchronous interaction   limited  primary
    8. Assessment tools  sophisticated

    absent (work-around is using the search bar to capture user activity—limited to status updates and comments)—could be extended by adding Google Docs


    The Research

    The authors used qualitative methodology to capture student reflections of their experience at the end of the course (which ran in 2011). Analysis led to the identification of four primary themes: interaction with colleagues, interaction with the instructor, personal learning, and intensity. Students expressed appreciation of their collaboration experiences with one another and with the instructor, identified both proactive (e.g. initiating messages) and more passive (i.e.  pressing the “like” button) methods of personalizing their learning, and the immediacy and responsive nature of the experience.

    A third of the class indicated that they had no difficulties at all with the Facebook course. The remainder of the students identified difficulties in locating specific information (resolved while the course was running by storing information in the sidebar), workload issues related to the intensity and feeling the need to keep up every day (not dissimilar to my experience in this MDDE610 course!), blurring of the boundary between social life and school (although the course was maintained as a closed group, some students prefer a distinct separation between personal and academic “lives”), and reluctance to make written contributions. Overall, 86% of students recommended delivering other academic courses on Facebook and rated the Facebook contribution to their learning as 4.1 on a scale of 1 to 5.

    The authors note that there are two sides of the coin in using Facebook as a LMS—its very dynamism both ramps up the intensity and collaboration of the learning experience while simultaneously burdening some students with its never-ending call for engagement. 

    Real-time Interaction and the Landing

    I note your comments on the synchronous/real-time features of FB enjoyed by the students described in this case study, and how you point out that these kinds of features have not been enabled on the Landing. It seems to me that you are wondering about whether real-time chat and notifications might be perceived as over-exposure by some users. Personally, I would appreciate more synchronous interaction possibilities in order to capture the impressions of others and to provide more spontaneous contributions and reactions. I think that such synchrony might promote engagement and an even more personalized experience. I, for one, think that I would enjoy even more immediacy and intensity on the Landing.