World first puts Facebook students in the picture

Facebook Course at Coleg Harlech is world firstIn a pilot scheme, Coleg Harlech WEA, has used the social network site to deliver the course on digital photography.

Now it has applied for grant funding to widen the courses it can offer using Facebook as a “hybrid learning platform.”

The experiment, which has been hailed a great success, was the brainchild of IT and innovation consultant, Chris Headleand, lecturer in creative technologies at the college and an expert in social media.

The college, which specialises in giving adults a second chance at education, runs courses across North and Mid-Wales and has a residential college in Harlech.

“The feedback from the students – who I never met during the course – has been brilliant, they are very pleased. They liked the inter-action that Facebook offered and felt very comfortable talking to each other in that way.

“Facebook cannot take the place of traditional distance learning methods for longer types of courses, but for the shorter courses we are looking at it would be great.

“This was a pilot study, because of my interest in social media I wanted to look at ways of delivering information through Facebook and Twitter. I thought maybe we could use Facebook as a hybrid learning system to deliver learning resources.

“As a result of its success we have just put in a bid to a couple of funding bodies which will hopefully take it to a whole new stage. Although the course was only a small sample group it showed it was definitely worth exploring and extending.
“We could develop Facebook courses for languages, local history or more vocational courses such as employability skills.
“The ‘green’ benefits and also enormous in areas like north west Wales. We have students who have to travel up to an hour a day to get into college so the environmental advantages of not having to travel would be tremendous. For people who have to look after children or only have spare time in the evenings, Facebook would work for shorter courses.

“It’s also an advantage for people who are not into computers or not IT confident. Virtually everyone has a Facebook account these days so using Facebook means you do not have to grapple with a whole new piece of software before starting the course, which can be a huge barrier.”
The digital photography course was an introduction to photographic techniques, examining compositional rules. “It was very much for people who have just got a camera, perhaps for Christmas or birthday, and do not know much about taking photographs.

“I devised a course of set modules with specific learning objectives looking at composition and editing. The nice thing about Facebook is that it is a very inter-active platform; people can post their photos and get instant feedback.

“We set up a group on Facebook and invited the students to join and then closed it off to keep it private. By using Facebook I could use external resources such as YouTube videos. I set them mini assignments, they could take a photo, post it and the group could instantly comment.

“Sometimes you put people in a room together and ask them to provide feedback on each other’s work and the comments are nearly always ‘positive’ everyone is trying to help each other improve. The comments we got were always constructive,” said Chris.
“We think the course was potentially the first of its kind in the world, from the research I have done no one seems to have delivered a course through Facebook.”

Ann Thomas described the course as “brilliant” and said she would highly recommend it.
Ann, 38, from Chwilog, near Pwllheli, works full-time as an administrator in the district nursing office of Ysbyty Alltwen, Tremadog.
“I enrolled on a 10 week BTec course in digital photography which I saw advertised internally within the NHS and I thought I would give it a go because it was only one night a week,” said Ann, who is married.
But while doing that course – which involved her in a three-quarters of an hour drive to classes in Bangor - Ann became aware of the Facebook course and decided to try that out too.

“At first I wondered whether I would like it, but I thought it was brilliant, I really enjoyed it.
“We actually moved house while I was doing the course but it was much easier than I thought. I use Facebook about half an hour a day and I found no disadvantage in not attending classes because you could see the work of the other students and you felt part of a group because of the constant feed-back.

“I would recommend it to anyone, it would help a lot of people in remoter areas and those who have to work nightshifts,” she said.
To find out more contact Tudur Evans by ringing 01248 353254, email info@fc.harlech.ac.uk