Eric Kim, a fourth-year sociology student, updates his Facebook status every two hours and creates false personas in chat rooms ““ not for pleasure, but to teach.
His Sociology of Facebook and Online Social Networks class is part of the Undergraduate Student Initiated Education program, which allows undergraduate students to create and teach classes to other undergraduate students.
Kim assigns his 20 students weekly assignments, like creating a false persona on the Omegle chat site, a chat room that allows users to connect with anyone anywhere in the world. Also included in Kim’s syllabi are required readings, both academic and periodical articles.
“Facebook is changing the way individuals interact and perceive the world,” Kim said. “I am interested in studying the effect of social networks on interpersonal relations and if (in) these social networks we are growing closer together or further apart.”
Kim’s class attracted a wide range of students with varying fields of study and motivations for taking the class.
“In college, Facebook is a really big part of our lives that we can use to our advantage,” said Aldrin Gamos, a fourth-year sociology student. “This class is a different way of thinking about something that we normally use just to procrastinate.”
The Undergraduate Student Inititiated Education program began in 2005, according to Kumiko Haas, the associate director of Instructional Improvement Programs at the Office of Instructional Development.
Undergraduate students who want to be facilitators of their own class must find a faculty advisor and submit their application in the fall.
If they are accepted, they continue with an independent study with their advisor and take a pedagogy course in the winter. Undergraduate-taught classes are then offered in the spring while facilitators continue on with their independent study.
“For the facilitators, they take ownership of their vision, of their ideas, and they learn more when they translate that passion to other students,” Haas said.
An undergraduate facilitator allows for a different type of discussion, she said. The class is more of a peer-to-peer discussion.
“Our undergraduate facilitator relates to us more than a conventional professor can,” said Sally Pan, a first year undeclared student. “This is the one class I want to wake up to and relate to.”