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Facebook introduces Groups for Schools

In a move that had the distinct feel of a return to its not-so-distant past, Facebook yesterday announced a new tool that it’s calling Groups for Schools. The new feature will allow individuals at colleges and universities to form more close-knit groups on the popular social network, which can then be used to discuss classes, plan upcoming campus events, or just share photos.

Facebook, which started life as a college dating site, currently hosts thousands of school and college groups but those pages are open to anyone and there are few collaborative tools beyond the usual comment and ‘Like’ features. The new Groups for Schools pages will have additional privacy features and will also allow file sharing. Facebook suggests this latter feature will make it easy “to share lecture notes, sports schedules or class assignments.”

A more private group is assured by the requirement that each member has an active school e-mail address. Beyond that, there are three other privacy options:

  1. An Open Group, where anyone can see who’s in it and anyone in the school community can see or post updates or files and events, just as long as they have an active school e-mail address;
  2. A Closed Group, where anyone can see who’s in it but only members of the closed group can see or post updates or files; and

  3. A Secret Group, where only members of the group can see the group, who’s in it, and what members have posted or shared.

Facebook will gradual roll out Groups for Schools to colleges and schools around the world, although a few random searches revealed that hundreds have already been set up. If your school group has not yet been set up, then you can still sign up and a message will appear on the left side of your home page once your group is available. The school’s main group page will then list all the non-secret groups that you can join or you can start your own group.

Unfortunately, existing school pages cannot be converted into the Groups for Schools format. Each group has to be created from scratch. The initial creator is the admin person for the page but more admin names can be added at any time.

Perhaps the most interesting and appealing aspect of Groups for Schools is the ability to share files. With so much coursework at colleges and universities already being conducted online, this feature may prove to be very popular when it comes to study and exam time. However, students shouldn’t get excited about a new-found ability to exchange full-length videos or movies; the maximum file size allowed is 25MB!

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