Professors get Facebook profiles to enhance classes

With 97 members, five wall posts and two posted items from YouTube, the “Chad Rector’s Political Science 003 Alums” Facebook group does not seem out of the ordinary, except that the group’s creator is Rector, an assistant professor in the political science department.

“If it hadn’t been for Facebook going corporate I wouldn’t ever have really felt comfortable with this,” said Rector, who joined Facebook more than a year ago. He said he had not done much on the Web site until he started his group this month.

Originally created for students only, Facebook has exploded into a booming social network for students, alumni and professionals, including professors. At GW, professors are now struggling with how to utilize the site as an effective way to communicate with students without crossing the line.

“I think that there is a very real concern about faculty or adults transgressing into the personal social network that students have set up for themselves,” Rector said, despite having posted a video of himself on his alumni Facebook group discussing the difference between the head of state and the head of government.

Rector said that Facebook “might make it easier for some kinds of students who would be more comfortable with that kind of interaction.”

Jason Osder, an adjunct assistant professor of media and public affairs, said he created his group “partly because Blackboard is a pain.”

It is difficult to send three sections the same material, Osder said, so he turned to Facebook for help and set up an account with the Web site this month.

Junior Bethany Crudele, who is enrolled in Osder’s introduction to digital media class, said that she thinks Facebook is an effective communication tool for professors to use.

“Sometimes professors only give out their phone numbers or only office hours,” Crudele said. “So I just think (Osder) is trying to make an easy way for us to try to talk to him.”

That does not mean that Crudele wasn’t surprised to see Osder on the social networking site.

“It just really caught me off guard that my professor was a member of Facebook,” she said.

Osder said he is thinking of creating another Facebook as a means of promoting a class he is considering teaching in the spring with Professor Michael Shanahan, which will be an online journalism workshop. Prospective students will be able to become familiar with its aspects and goals before it’s even on the University bulletin, Osder said.

Junior Allan Johnson is a member of Rector’s group and is Facebook friends with Osder. Johnson took Rector’s class when he was a freshman.

“Everyone checks their Facebook everyday anyways, if not multiple times, so it’s a good way to communicate with people and I don’t see why professors should be any different,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he was invited into Rector’s group by his roommate and was excited to join because Rector is one of his “favorite professors,” and his lectures for introduction to international politics were “amazing.”

“A lot of people just never think about their classes again after taking them and now that I’m in this group it kind of keeps the lessons I learned in his class fresh in my mind,” he said.

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