September 2015
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Jenifer Edens, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA

This article is related to "Facebook: If You Can't Beat 'Em…" a presentation originally given in the Electronic Village at the TESOL convention in Dallas, Texas, USA, and then again in Portland, Oregon, USA and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Rather than asking adult students to register for and then regularly visit a new website to navigate an unfamiliar classroom management tool, the teacher can meet students where they are by using Facebook as an interactive online course management system. It is not necessary for teachers to grant students access to their own personal content on Facebook; it can be done without “friending” students. Because students are already accustomed to the features of this social media platform, there is no learning curve as there is with other class management tools.

Another benefit of Facebook is that most students already automatically receive notifications from it or visit the site several times a day.

These are the top 10 tasks you can use a private Facebook group for with your students to build community and keep them informed.

1. Introductions

2. Facilitating conversations about aspects of culture shock.

3. Sharing ideas for essay topics.

4. Practicing certain grammar structures (e.g., using subordinate clauses to write complex sentences).

5. Conducting polls.

    6. Posting deadlines for applications, dates for activities on campus, homework assignments, tests, and holidays under the “Events” tab. (For details about creating events, visit

      Note: As you enter each event throughout the term, they appear on the group’s main page in the order you create them, but Facebook also automatically puts the events in chronological order under the group’s “Events” tab. These events also appear on the students’ calendars on Facebook.

      7. Posting links to videos or websites for additional listening, reading, grammar, or vocabulary practice (e.g., TED Talks or a site such as Quizlet with vocabulary flashcards).

          8. Posting emergency announcements or weather warnings.

          9. Sharing photographs of group photos or class events.

          10. Sharing PowerPoint files, Word files, or other documents.


          1. Use Facebook groups only if all your students are adults.
          2. In the group settings for privacy, select “Closed” so only class members can see what you and class members post. (For details about creating a private group, visit
          3. In the group settings for membership approval, select “Any member can add members, but an admin must approve them,” to prevent students from granting membership to anyone who is not in your class.
          4. Post some content in the group before you invite students to join so they will see that it is useful as soon as they join. For example, you may post the assignment for students to introduce themselves, and under “Events,” you may post important deadlines, test dates, and graduation day.
          5. To invite your students to join the group, you may email them a link to the group, or you may let them search for it by name on Facebook.
          6. Instead of forbidding students to share off-topic posts (e.g., links to funny videos, an excessive number of class photos, or requests for a ride to school), create a second group for extracurricular material.

          To see an example of a Facebook group for an ESL class, visit our site here.

          Jenifer Edens teaches international students in the Language and Culture Center at the University of Houston.

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