Facebook in Large Lecture Courses – Professor Jeff Byers

Technology Used: Facebook
Courses: Organic Chemistry 2  (implemented twice), and Advanced General Chemistry (implemented once)
Number of students: Approximately 70 in Organic Chemistry 2, and approximately 25 in Advanced General Chemistry

Photo by Carrie Macfarlane

When Professor Jeff Byers, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was looking for an online discussion tool for Organic Chemistry 2 (Chem 242) and Advanced General Chemistry (Chem 107), he wanted to find a tool that was student-centric.  “I did not want this to be ‘top down’ — the students get enough of me,” he says.  His students were already on Facebook, so he opened a forum there (see Middlebury Orgo Spring 2009).

Through conversations on “The Wall,” students were able to work together to answer simple questions and solve complex problems.  If they participated regularly then at the end of the semester, their quiz grade (5% of final average) was replaced with a perfect 5/5.

The students worked collaboratively, which was exactly what Professor Byers had hoped.  Advancement of science depends upon collaboration, and Professor Byers wanted the students to get plenty of practice. In addition, posting quick questions to a large pool of students, instead of bringing all inquiries to one professor, can be faster and more beneficial for everyone — including the students who take the time to answer and explain. Finally, because students can work together on complex “thought” problems, these types of problems now can be incorporated into exams.

Professor Byers estimates that about one-third of each class participated regularly.  Another one-third joined in only when they had a pressing problem, and the rest “lurked” when an exam question was posted. He was pleased with these results, and he will use the technique again.

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