Textbooks are coming to students’ Facebook news feeds

Seven in 10 students say they would be likely to use a Facebok app that might improve their grades.

In between commenting on photos, posting videos, and updating statuses, college students will be able to read textbooks, study with classmates, and post questions on Facebook after a California-based digital textbook company released its eBooks to the world’s most popular social network.

Kno, an educational software company that grabbed the attention of campus technologists in July with the release of a controversial eBook survey, announced Aug. 10 that it would make more than 100,000 digital textbooks readable via Facebook.

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Using Kno’s Facebook application–in open beta for now–students will be able to access a reading assignment and use their Facebook news feed to pose questions to fellow students, teaching assistants, and professors.

While student Facebook use is considered ubiquitous in many corners of higher education, Kno released survey results to reinforce what faculty members know all too well: Facebook is an ingrained part of everyday life for teenagers and twenty-somethings.

Students in the Kno research spent an average of three hours a day on the social media site. Nearly seven in 10 respondents said they would be “likely” to use a Facebook app that “might improve their grades.”

“Students interact differently in the digital medium and our goal is to help students easily extract the pertinent information for their classes,” said Osman Rashid, Kno’s CEO and co-founder. “While it may seem like a radical concept to bring textbooks to Facebook, we see a real shift occurring among students, where learning is getting embedded with social aspects of their everyday life.”

Osman continued: “The problem, however, is that social networks themselves have historically lacked a way for students to engage in learning and collaboration in a meaningful way–we hope to change that.”

Sixty-two percent of students interviewed by Kno said they would study more if they could “access their textbooks from anywhere without having to lug them around.”

More than 19 million students worldwide have a Kno account, according to the company’s official blog.

Student Campaign, a blog that frequently evaluates technology use in higher education, said mixing academics with perusing news feeds could be incompatible for students.

“I agree with the idea that bringing a social component to textbooks could be beneficial, however I don’t think Facebook, the king of time wasters, is the way to do it,” the blog said, adding that the Kno app “isn’t much more than a glorified portal to the Kno web application.”

Bringing academia to social media sites is nothing new–professors have incorporated Facebook interaction into their courses for years–but social media research collected over the past couple years has shown that Facebook and studying can be an academically toxic combination, lowering grades by up to 20 percent.

An infographic, “Is Social Media Ruining Students?” published in April by OnlineEducation.net, distills reams of social media research and lists the pros and cons of how social sites, especially Twitter and Facebook, are used on campuses.

The infographic charges that one in three college students use Facebook regularly for educational purposes.

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