One of my personal goals as an academic is to maintain open communication with my students, both during and after classes. In our Asian learning style, our students don’t usually like to openly ask questions or even communicate with the lecturers. They simply like to sit in the classroom, listen (or half listening) to the lecture, and just enjoy the air-conditioning class (because Malaysia has really hot weather most of the time). After many classes, a few students would probably contact me with some questions through emails. Emails are good communication method but I don’t think it’s very effective in communicating with students. I sometimes find emails rather messy with too many emails from so many people (seriously, being an academic, emails will be the death of me if compared to my life in industry. Now I have realized the importance of inbox zero and how difficult to get it!). Sometimes I might just overlook some email enquiries from students because I was too busy attending to other emails. So, I decided to create another platform just for my students to keep in touch with me, a Facebook Page.
Okay, most Facebook Pages are created for fans and I don’t want to think myself a celebrity to have fans like my page. I simply want an effective platform that students are already familiar with and some are simply constantly on that platform most of the times. Facebook is that kind of platform that many students are already the expert users. So I created my page and introduced it to my students at the beginning of the semester. Many have clicked ‘like’ on my page and that’s how we keep up communication most of the times. I got personal messages from students all the times, no matter day or night (mostly night because that’s when the students claim to be studying). Good thing is I have iPad and mobile apps that allow me to constantly reply messages with ease. I mostly got questions about the course I was teaching, especially near tests period. Other than questions, some students just want to chat and get some personal motivation, which I’m more than happy to provide. I could say that through this platform I’m not only make myself available to questions about the course, I’m actually presenting myself to be approachable/available as a mentor or advisor to my students. I believe students appreciate lecturers who are always available to give them support in the learning process.
I guess for some academics, they would think it’s too personal to add students as friends in their personal Facebook account to utilize the platform for communication. I would think it’s rather awkward to let your students know where you have vacation during the semester break while they are working their asses off with final year projects. Of course, there are always privacy settings in Facebook to filter what you want to share. However, I don’t really want to trouble myself with all the settings. That’s why I would recommend the use of FB page to maintain your privacy and at the same time still open for communication in a very professional way. Just like any organization or brand that wants to maintain relationships with their customers, we (academics) should utilize this platform to maintain a good relationships with our students. I believe if students find a lecturer approachable and caring enough, they would eventually like learning from the lecturer. Hence, this helps increasing the learning experience for the students. However, all these are just my yet to be proven hypotheses, which I’m looking forward to find out more soon.
More about my other uses of Web 2.0 applications in my teaching and learning process soon.