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US: Facebook accelerates education plans

Social network Facebook has accelerated plans to move into the education space.

The social network giant plans to distribute free educational software which facilitates personalised learning to schools across the US.

In 2014, Facebook helped to redevelop not-for-profit education provider Summit Public Schools’ existing Personalised Learning Plan (PLP) tool.

The redeveloped software was used by more than 2,000 students and 100 teachers in Summit schools last year, according to the social network giant.

Now, the redeveloped software will be tested in a small pilot programme with public schools partnering with Summit, before a pan-US launch.

“We’ll use feedback from this programme to improve the PLP so we can eventually offer it, for free, to any school in the US that wants it,” Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox explained.

Explaining the software, Cox added: “Content and assessments are delivered online through teacher-created materials, and classroom time is reserved for teacher-led real-world projects and collaboration.”

Leonie Haimson, executive director at Class Size Matters, criticised the move, however. 

Haimson told the BBC: “We are very concerned about the privacy implications of this deal. Facebook is known for violating privacy and seems to be getting worse in this regard.”

In the blog post, Cox assured that its engineers were subject to “strict privacy controls to help protect student data”.

The news marks Facebook’s first serious educational move, but is not its first time operating in the space.

In May 2012, for example, the company launched an education page aimed at “educators and people interested in improving education”. 

Facebook also launched mooc SocialEDU, a pilot initiative to provide Rwandan students with free access to online education, in February last year.

It has also delved into the immersive learning space with the acquisition of Oculus for an undisclosed sum in March 2014.

The company’s product, Oculus Rift, sells VR headsets which take users directly into a 360 degree, 3D virtual world, and can be used for educational purposes.

Posted on: 08/09/2015

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