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It’s back to school time for the world’s largest social network.

Partially returning to its roots as a locked-down site just for college kids, Facebook has launched Groups for Schools, or university-centric Facebook communities restricted to active faculty and students with .edu email accounts.

“You can join a group for your major to discuss classes, for your sorority to plan upcoming events, or for your dorm to share photos,” Facebook engineer Michael Novati said of the new product.

Groups for Schools, unique to each college, house all student and staff-created groups in a directory-like fashion, and offer up functionality similar to that of Facebook’s existing Groups product — except with one important addition. Group members can upload and share files, up to 25 MB in size, to exchange notes, assignments, and so forth with their college cohorts.

Facebook is managing the rollout of Groups for Schools, meaning that the collegiate sub-portals are not yet available at all schools, but once a university is available, active students and staff can start creating and joining groups for cross-campus communication or private exchanges. Groups for Schools is available at 100 universities, and the full rollout will take a couple days, a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat.

“Facebook will continue to iterate on Groups for Schools as the feature is rolled out to more schools. College students are some of our most avid users and provide a lot of useful feedback in order to help us iterate quickly,” the spokesperson added.

The addition of semi-private channels for student and college-specific exchanges is an interesting development. The maneuver could be seen as a defensive tactic meant to protect the ready-to-IPO Facebook from emerging private social network competitors. The college communities could also further insulate its most influential members and keep them hooked on Facebook-phonics.

Photo credit: drjazz76

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