First OU Facebook app

I’ve been working with Tony Hirst, Stuart Brown and Liam Green-Hughes at the OU to develop some applications for Facebook (okay, they’ve been working, I’ve been talking about it).  We now have a semi-official OU Facebook project, the aim of which is to develop some applications we think will be interesting to OU people in Facebook. The aims of the project are to:

  1. Gain experience in developing tools for a platform such as Facebook
  2. Gain knowledge as to the type of tools and widgets that are popular
  3. Observe patterns of use of these tools
  4. Generate traffic and students for openlearn and the Open University
  5. Gain an understanding of how learning behaviour changes in social networks
  6. Generate interest in the OU.

We’ve drawn up a list of twenty apps we are going to develop. The first of these is the Course Profile, which means students can enter an OU course code, or title, and it will search the database and add in the full name. They can then display which courses they have studied. This sounds rather modest, but from it a range of other apps follow – you can find people who have studied the same course and get a study buddy, it can display the associated course books which you can then buy (from Amazon, or other students), you can link into associated networks, find student suggested resources, go to the libraryset of materials, etc.

The app can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/add.php?api_key=06d85b85540794e2fd02e9ef83206bf6

If you’re not an OU student but want to have a look anyway, then enter T171 as a course code. That you can do this is an interesting difference between how we approach this project – we are not verifying that a student has studied such a course, so you can put in whatever you like. It is a tool for students to self-declare. This is a subtle difference, and why I think such tools will be useful and welcome. There have been a number of reports saying students don’t want academics invading their space, but if we are providing them with tools which allow them to make better use of their space, then I think it adds value.

Also interesting was that while we were testing ours we found that an OU student had developed one as well. I think this is great, and it goes to show that if universities don’t do this stuff then other people will.


  • Juliette

    I discovered that one of my friends was doing the same course as me as a result of the item the app puts on your feed – something I probably wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
    I’m sure it’s on your wish list, but I’d really like to be able to find out who else is studying the same course presentation, in the same way that I can find all the folk who play World of Warcraft on my server with the WoW app that I’ve got installed.

  • Martin

    We’ve wondered about that Juliette – for instance when I click on a book in my bookshelf it shows me who else is reading that book, not just my friends. I can see how it would be useful, but I think we’d probably want to let people control the privacy element. Liam is working on this I think.

  • Sarah

    Would it be possible to do a version for OU courses people have worked on? I like the simplicity of it and it could be extended to help foster community amongst ALs / acknowledge the distinction between studying and working on a course for those who do both.
    Or something along those lines!

  • Diane

    very nice, but, yes, being able to see who else had done that course the same year would be useful – some great conversations on First Class that were never completed as people got dropped from the system once they were no longer on a course. It might make up for the useless alumni site 🙂

  • Diane

    an additional thought – the link back to the course information is a great idea, but most of my courses are now defunct, so they are dead links, which I know, but anyone else clicking on it would not.
    If there is no way to link to info about what the course used to be about (very time consuming and probably not sustainable) it might be better from the user POV to have a generic link that kicks in when that happens – along the lines of “you have requested information on a course which is no longer current”.

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