Editor’s note: It’s so nice to write a non-hurricane post. I bet it’s even better for you to be able to read a non-hurricane post. :)
I’ve been preparing for the restart of classes this week, and I got to thinking about an old Facebook feature that I found incredibly useful for scouting out who was in what class of mine: Courses.
Back in the good ol’ days when Facebook was a students-only kind of thing, there was a Courses feature that, true to what one may expect, let you put in what classes you’re taking (including the section). Once you entered that information, you could then click on the course or specific section and see who else entered the same information. It was cool for getting a general idea of who’d be in my classes; maybe I’d have a friend in a class I wasn’t aware of. It was also an incredibly useful tool for finding folks for notes and other things in situations where I had to miss and maybe didn’t know folks yet. People were usually really, really cool about those messages (I was, when I received them) and helping out where the need arose.
Then, a couple funny things happened: Facebook went mainstream, and opened up the Facebook API. That combination effectively nixed the Courses feature. Unlike features like Photos and Videos and such, Facebook never officially reimplemented Courses, leaving it to the community to implement it. And implement it, it did — there’s like a bajillion different apps now to manage courses. I’m giving Courses 2.0 by Cramster.com a shot, which I actually have four friends using. However, it took work to hunt down and find the application, authorize it to steal my soul, and then start throwing courses in. The older Courses feature was built-in; thus, more students were actually likely to use it, as it required less work to get going. This is not to say that apps like Courses 2.0 aren’t nice, though; it displays a graphical breakout of my schedule, allows the input of ISBN numbers for textbooks, and is compatible with the new Facebook format by permitting the addition of a tab (which I have done). Again, though, I had to seek it out — something I know a lot of students just won’t do.
It’s for this reason that I suspect there could once again be a market for a closed social network for college students. Facebook’s original tools for managing academic as well as social relationships were actually quite useful, and it’s a shame that they’ve been farmed out, and as a result, become less useful and, unfortunately, siloed.
If you’re using one of these apps for academic networking, which one are you (and your friends) using?