Facebook launched a new ‘Facebook Campus’ feature Thursday that aims to connect college students with their campus communities, returning the social network to its initial college-only roots as students across the country contend with virtual learning and decreased opportunities for face-to-face socializing amid the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.
Facebook Campus will be a dedicated section within the regular Facebook app, in which students can have separate Campus profiles from their regular Facebook profile and join school-specific groups and events, as well as access a campus directory and special chat rooms.
Students will need to use their college email as verification in order to join their school’s page.
The feature is rolling out to only 30 schools to begin with, including Brown University, California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Georgia State University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Facebook was originally developed for college students — its name comes from the directories with headshots that some schools distributed to help students get to know each other — before the platform opened up to the general public in 2006.
In a post announcing the new feature, Facebook specifically tied Facebook Campus’ launch to the rise of virtual learning amid the pandemic, noting that students being away from their colleges make it now “more important than ever” to “stay connected to college life.”
994. That’s the number of U.S. colleges whose fall semesters are confirmed to be fully or primarily online, according to Davidson College’s College Crisis Initiative, as compared with only 69 that are fully in person and 567 that are primarily in person.
School and university reopenings have been a major issue as the Covid-19 pandemic has stretched into the fall, with schools either remaining virtual or facing the possibility of coronavirus outbreaks if they resume in-person classes. More than 40,000 cases of Covid-19 have already been reported among students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities in all 50 states, according to CNN, and some schools have returned to virtual learning amid new outbreaks. Decreased socialization among students has been an issue even when they’ve been allowed to return to campus, with schools discouraging partying—which has already been linked to Covid-19 outbreaks—and suspending or evicting students for holding or taking part in gatherings.
Facebook has typically been viewed as less popular among Generation Z compared with other social networks like Instagram and Snapchat; a 2019 Business Insider poll found that only 34% of 13-21 year olds check Facebook daily, as compared with 65% who check Instagram (which is also owned by Facebook) and 51% who check Snapchat.
By Alison Durkee,Forbes Staff