Facebook has changed the way students, faculty members, and administrators communicate outside the classroom. Now, with the introduction of the London School of Business & Finance’s Global MBA Facebook app, Facebook is becoming the classroom.
The Global MBA app—introduced in October—lets users sample typical business-school courses like corporate finance and organizational behavior through the social-networking site. The free course material includes interactive message boards, a note-taking tool, and video lectures and discussions with insiders from industry giants like Accenture Management Consulting and Deloitte. This may be a good way to market a school, notes an observer from a business-school accrediting organization, but it may not be the best way to deliver courses.
Unlike most online business courses, the Global MBA program will not require students to pay an enrollment fee up front. Instead, students can access basic course material free of charge and pay the school only when they are ready to prepare for their exams. School administrators hope that letting students “test drive” the online courses before actually shelling out the tuition money will boost graduation rates.
While the school offers a large collection of study material on Facebook—including 80 hours of Web video—students seeking formal accreditation must qualify for entrance into the M.B.A. program. Once enrolled in the paid course, students are given access to additional content on the business school’s InterActive course management system, and are required to sit for examinations—like they would if they were enrolled in more traditional distance-learning or brick-and-mortar programs. The Facebook MBA program is accredited by the University of Wales and costs a total of £14,500—about $22,000.
Steve Parscale, director of accreditation for the Kansas-based Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs, said sample classes offered through social-networking sites could provide great advertising opportunities for online colleges. “The younger generation is all on social media,” Mr. Parscale said. “If you can get them on Facebook to test-drive a class, then you can get them to actually enroll.”
But Mr. Parscale said he doesn’t know if Facebook is the best place to actually host courses. Although he is not familiar with the London school’s program, Mr. Parscale said that Facebook generally lacks the infrastructure to track student progress, manage data, and prevent cheating that is built into more traditional course-management systems. Programs like BlackBoard and Moodle “are designed to do that, where Facebook is not really designed to facilitate coursework,” he said.
According to the London School of Business & Finance, the Facebook course already has 34,000 users, and it expects 500,000 prospective students to test-drive its classes over the next year—though it’s not clear how many of them will go on to pursue an M.B.A. “Even if people do not decide to go for formal accreditation,” Mr. Etingen said, “the LBSF Global MBA will, at no cost, better equip business students to deal with the global job market.”