A definite ‘Like’ for this French b-school for getting social media into the classroom

Photo Credit: Bergerking (Flickr)

When you can’t fight the system, you simply go with it.

Professor of Marketing, Nicolas Minvielle, at Audencia Nantes School of Management, France did just that. Sensing that his students spent considerable time on Facebook and Twitter during class hours, he simply decided to join them. He got social media inside the class, in other words, he began posting class instructions and notes on Facebook. This, he claims, actually got students more drawn into class work and FB became a site for both, learning and fun. Though, still at a testing stage, the results so far are encouraging and the school plans to extend this form of teaching to the rest of the subjects.

Prof Minvielle has spent six years in charge of brand studies and the internet for designer Philippe Starck, before joining Audencia Nantes. At the school, he is responsible for the specialised master’s programme in Marketing, Design and Creation. His main themes of teaching and research include intellectual property, branding, design and strategic management.

Prof Minvielle was happy to share notes with PaGaLGuY on this rather innovative style of teaching.

Prof Nicolas Minvielle

Why did you think of this and how does it work?

To give traditional classes for two hours just doesn’t work anymore. The professor can no longer hope to have a classroom of students who are attentive to the teaching over such a length of time, in part because of Facebook and Twitter. What happens now is that they use internet without hesitation to check in real time what the professor is telling them. The students can pick through millions of pieces of information in record time. Studies have shown that students of this age actually master Facebook better than Excel. I have started this experiment with a test group, but the results are very positive. The initiative has increased student involvement and created a positive classroom atmosphere. With Facebook, students work harder and more often because they are so used to accessing Facebook pages during their free time. As a result, they consult the professor’s page and interact on projects and class topics in the evenings and at weekends. Without a dedicated Facebook group this would not be possible though.

What are you hoping to actually achieve?

What Facebook does is allow greater interaction between students and the faculty members. Knowing they have the possibility of putting their point of view at any moment makes the students more attentive and ‘participative.’ The discussions continue on the social network once the class is over and students compete with each other to see who can react the quickest to a new message or presentation. It motivates them. Because of the initiative’s success it seems very likely that it will be extended to other classes. The school has already run a workshop for its professors on how to use social networks for teaching. Facebook is a leisure activity for most people so why not get a bit of studies in it.

Have all your students reacted positively?

The test group is all masters in management students in their early twenties which mean they are all familiar with Facebook and open to the use of social networks in class. We have not noticed any differences in terms of gender as the whole class has adopted the idea with enthusiasm. The students’ reaction to each new comment is impressive. They all read it, analyse its qualities between themselves and then begin their work again so they can be the next to post something. Everyone involved agrees that Facebook has truly allowed the classes to become more supple, spontaneous and rich.

Social media has its ills too?

The ills are that if the social media are not used in class then all those students who increasingly bring laptops into schools will surf Facebook and other networks rather than pay complete attention to the professor teaching. The trick is to adapt by taking into account this social phenomenon in order to improve knowledge acquisition and student interaction. This classroom Facebook test is convincing and invites other uses of social networks before, during and after classes. The ‘Like’ function now allows students to confirm their presence for the next classes and events. I can also use the Facebook content to feed into company case studies. I’m convinced that we can find other applications in the coming months.”

And this is what a student of Prof Minvielle Hermine le Mintier from Audencia Master had to say

“Facebook has changed the atmosphere in class. It seems more vibrant and younger now, less formal too. The atmosphere is more American with less distance between the professor and the students. This means everyone’s more relaxed and the classes are richer. Those students who seemed less interested with a subject, speak up now and have really interesting things to say that they wouldn’t have said before.

Using Facebook has made everything quicker. All the information we need is available before, during and after the lesson. If we’re not sure of a class time, if we have queries on certain theories, if we need to ask for our work to be corrected, we just go via Facebook and our professor or our classmates will give us feedback almost immediately.”

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