I recently recommenced my practice of posting appointment reminders for my students on Facebook. This is an advising tool I’ve used since the fall of 2005 and have never received negative feedback nor experienced adverse repercussions on my relationship with my advisees because of it. Many thoughtful questions have been put to me by my colleagues over the years, and I thought it not a bad idea to address them in this post as I have in presentations and consultations in the past.
First and foremost, one must appreciate that every institution has its own version of FERPA compliance protocols. Regardless, my posting of dates and times of appointments with individual students tells those who can access my Facebook profile (and each individual post) nothing more than the fact that a certain students is meant to meet with me at a specific time on a certain day. I’m not sharing registration status, the meaning of the appointment, the location of said appointment . . .etc.
Trust and Privacy?
Everything I do as a university professional and educator is undertaken with the utmost sensitivity to learner-centered teaching. this being the case, I’ve dealt my students in on this approach to communicating advising information to them in a public space. I offer them an “opt out,” in advance, if they’re uncomfortable with the idea of appointment times being posted as a note on Facebook. And they’re always welcome to exercise an unofficial “opt out” simply by “un-friending” me (something that has rarely happened in the four years I’ve been using Facebook in my day-to-day work).
Finally, there is no aspect of academic advising that should need “privacy policing.” It’s imperative to what we do as professional advisors to de-stigmatize the learning support we offer. There is nothing remedial about my institution’s approach to academic advising, students aren’t being summoned “to the principle’s office” to be lectured and they shouldn’t be viewing appointments with us as something to hide. Again, in the end it’s about each individual student and her or his expectations and desires–it’s easy to deal them in and imperative that we do so.