Wednesday, 8 December 2010

NUI Galway School of Law on Facebook

A couple of weeks ago, I had a coffee with Michael Coyne (@MichealCoyne on twitter) of the NUI Galway School of Law. I was interested in finding out a little bit more about the School's presence on Facebook. The site currently has more than 400 fans and is a very nice example of using facebook to enhance the student experience.

Michael made some interesting points.

The site is mainly aimed at final year undergraduate students, but also targets recent graduates and prospective students. It offers some useful course-related information such as timetables and announcements, more general information about upcoming seminars and career advice and whatever is considered newsworthy or of interest to law students, past and present.

It’s also a good platform for current PhD students who actively blog on human rights and disability issues to highlight their work and perhaps make contact with like-minded people.

This is seen as a good way to reach students. Michael's perception is that just 60% of students read their university email on a regular basis, but they do use Facebook. Although no formal evaluation has taken place, anecdotal evidence shows improved interaction and an increase in seminar attendance.

This raises some issues around how Facebook can be used to replace/supplement use of the VLE (Blackboard 8 at NUI Galway). Blackboard also offers the facility of making announcements and providing information. Michael points out that Blackboard is not used consistently by staff in the Law School, a fact which might contribute to the popularity of the Facebook site.

One critical aspect to keeping the Facebook page current is that it must be updated and monitored regularly, there must be somebody responsible for the administration of the site. He particularly acknowledges the support of admin staff in the College of Business, Public Policy and Law.

The page is open to anyone, so it also serves as a useful marketing tool, particularly to potential students of Law. There is a deliberate attempt to include lots of pictures and videos, and the site is seen as a way of improving the web profile of the School.

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