Groups at Oberlin: A Revisiting

Groups at Oberlin came onto my radar again today, as Facebook published a release introducing the feature for all schools this afternoon. It seemed as good a time as any to check in to see how our approach to the beta launch has panned out.

A month after we got access to our school groups, we have created 128 groups. Sounds spectacular, right? Breakdown:

  • Over half those groups have less than five members. My guess is the member that created the group is the one of the only members in it.
  • The most populous groups are Class of 20xx groups, with over 100 members in each. The class of 2015 group is the most populous, with 280 members. Other than adding classmates to the group and posting about a lost item and an event or two, the groups are about dead as their curated incoming class pages that were created when they matriculated.
  • The most active public group is that of SciFi Hall, a themed living hall that has one of the most tight-knit communities on campus. It’s no surprise that their community is active on Facebook, too, since they’re one of the most active communities at Oberlin.
  • Out of the created groups, 95% of them have seen no activity (both in regards to new members or new posts) since the first week they were created in early March.

In short, it has not been adopted by our campus community. Well, why?

  • Why would students use Facebook as a central means of communications? It’s a place for friends and procrastination, not for homework.
  • When it comes to connecting with friends, I should hope that if they’re on Facebook, you’re connected with them. Thus it is no different to create a regular Facebook group (which you can remain a part of after graduation) than a group as a part of the new School Groups feature.
  • It appears that there were some automatically created Facebook groups, such as jobs and internships, sports and athletics, etc. with no clue as to who is considered the administrator for them that students joined since they cared about the topic. When it comes to sports, it mentions scoring tickets in the description. Have you been to an Oberlin game before, Facebook? It’s free. When it comes to jobs and internships, there’s no one to provide the possible opportunities. How about letting us share our internship database and career services social connection on Twitter and Tumblr instead? This is a blow in the gut for me. There are resources on our campus that are willing and able to inform students about their interests to translate to job opps, but instead, an unmoderated “community” is the place that introduces the idea as something that will be offered to you, rather than seeking it out.
  • I reiterate from my first post on this topic: what in the world is the difference between a school group and an email thread?

Maybe it’s just me, but a beta launch is a time to hammer out problems and see what an audience does with it. Perhaps the rules are a bit too open-ended, or we’ve reached a saturation point with social grouping, or maybe it’s just that Facebook just can’t dictate how we create our social groups.

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Thanks for the info. Great to hear the experiences at a school where the Groups for Schools functionality on Facebook has already been introduced.

Also, I’m not sure there is that much difference right now between Groups and e-mail threads except where the alerts occur. If students are always on Facebook and only check e-mail once or twice a day, then a Group would be preferable to an e-mail thread.

Mark Rothbaum

Happy to share, Mark!

Email is the encouraged/preferred method of communication this campus, and if I drift past students in study mode, I do see both campus mail and Facebook open, though mainly for the chat feature on both.

I think it’s easier to ignore Facebook notifications because you can turn them off (which sort of defeats the purpose of active participation in these groups), whereas the email platform eliminates that element (unless you filter email messages… in which case we probably more problems than your preferred online platform for getting info).

Ma’ayan Plaut

Couldn’t agree more that Facebook should have collaborated with universities to get the right moderators and resources in place.

This reminds me a lot of the Wiki pages they created about universities and such. Now many of us are stuck trying to direct audiences to the correct/official FB university page with updated information and community life.

Teresa Ruiz