Facebook: Socialize with Friends, Earn an MBA

By Suzy Bills

With the increasing use of the Internet across the world and the growing popularity of online education, higher education institutions are developing creative ways to make use of these tools in an effort to gain a competitive edge. For example, in October 2010, the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) became the first institution to offer an internationally recognized MBA program through Facebook. This social networking giant has more than 500 million users, 175 million of whom log on daily, so it is not surprising it was the social networking site of choice for LSBF.

Through the LSBF Global MBA, a Facebook app, users can access hundreds of hours of content, including 15-minute video lectures; discuss case studies; interact with representatives from companies such as Deloitte and Accenture Management Consulting; and participate in study sessions. Other features include a note-taking tool and interactive tests.

Another aspect that makes LSBF's new program unique is that the hundreds of hours of material available via the Facebook app is free. Individuals only pay tuition if they choose to seek formal accreditation. They pay the same amount as for LSBF's campus and conventional online MBA programs-between $22,000 and $23,000. These students, who must meet program requirements (e.g., possessing a bachelor's degree or five years of professional work experience), receive access to additional material on LSBF's learning management system. To earn the degree, which is accredited by the University of Wales, they must pass the program examinations.

Aaron Etingen, LSBF's founder and Chief Executive Officer, expects the Facebook MBA program will amass 500,000 users by the end of the first year. So far, more than 73,000 people "like" the LSBF Global MBA page, with tens of thousands of individuals accessing the courses, which include accounting, corporate finance, marketing, ethics, and strategic planning.

Access to Knowledge Without the Risk.

Etingen recognizes the vast potential of online education and said the new program promotes access to knowledge. Another benefit of offering sample courses through Facebook and other social networking sites is the great advertising opportunities it provides to schools offering online programs. "The younger generation [are] all on social media. If you can get them on Facebook to test-drive a class, then you can get them to actually enroll," said Steve Parscale, Director of Accreditation at the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. The same may also be true for members of older generations, who are increasingly using Facebook as well.

By allowing individuals to use the numerous resources on Facebook, the LSBF program has removed the risk for those interested in completing the program. By allowing students to test drive the program before paying, Etingen hopes that graduation rates will increase (which he cites as being less than 25% for online MBA programs).

However, some individuals may be turned off by a fundamental aspect of the Facebook version of the MBA program: As with other Facebook apps, to access the LSBF Global MBA app, an individual must allow the app to access his or her name, Facebook ID, profile picture, and friends list. Though requiring this information may be considered intrusive, it is an element that allows users to see what other LSBF Global MBA users are working on, engage in dialogue, and answer each others' questions.

Facebook's Great, but Still Not a Learning Management System.

While Facebook does allow for more customization and development than many other social networking sites, it does have its limitations. In contrast to learning management systems, in general Facebook does not have the infrastructure needed to manage data, track students' progress, and prevent cheating.

However, by using Facebook's Developer API, an institution can develop apps that allow for a personalized, dynamic, content-rich environment within the infrastructure of the institution or course page. Further, many tools and apps that are compatible with Facebook have already been developed and are free. For example, Google Docs/Forms can be used to create tests or exercises. With the correct coding, the responses can be aggregated and reported immediately, allowing for quick feedback and discussion. There are also several free white board apps that can be embedded in the infrastructure. Other options include posting videos, pictures, and links to other social tools and online resources.

Not Ready to Offer a Complete Degree on Facebook? There Are Still Other Options.

True, most institutions have no plans to offer a complete degree program through Facebook (and do not foresee ever doing so). Nevertheless, even these institutions should take note of the trend toward incorporating social media in educational programs. Terrance Wing, Chief Learning Evangelist at Liquid Learn identifies several benefits of using Facebook to enhance a learning management system:

  • Because most students are familiar with Facebook, there is a small and fast learning curve in using the system as part of class.
  • Many students already have a positive emotional connection to Facebook.
  • The student's network of friends (including class members) provides a support system.
  • The interface can be customized to meet the needs of the institution or course.
  • Data and feedback are stored permanently, allowing the information to be referenced later.

Institutions that want to stay competitive in the changing world of higher education would do well to consider how they can incorporate social networking sites not only in marketing efforts but also in course facilitation. Many courses can be enhanced by making use of the tools available in Facebook or that can be embedded in the infrastructure through apps and coding. Colleges and universities want their students to learn cutting-edge technology and stay at the forefront of their fields of study. Thus, they need to lead by example, incorporating more technology—including social media like Facebook-in their instruction methods.


Article Sources

D. D. Guttenplan, “Poking, Tagging, and Now Landing an MBA,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/education/29iht-educlede29.html (accessed January 13, 2011).

 “London School of Business and Finance Offering MBA Courses on Facebook,” Alootechie, http://alootechie.com/content/london-school-business-and-finance-offering-mba-courses-facebook (accessed January 13, 2011).

 “The London School of Business and Finance Offers Everyone Free MBA Classes Online,” London School of Business and Finance, http://www.lsbf.org.uk/globalmba/globalmba.html (accessed January 13, 2011).

Terrence Wing, “App Fusion: Learning Face-off with Facebook,” Learning Solutions Magazine, http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/612/app-fusion-learning-face-off-with-facebook (accessed January 13, 2011).

Travis Kaya, “British Business School Offers MBA Courses on Facebook,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/british-university-offers-m-b-a-courses-on-facebook/28463 (accessed January 13, 2011).

 

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