It’s almost impossible to remember what life was like before Facebook—back when friends actually had to call one another to let them know what was going on or ask them if they wanted to get together for dinner!—and students are among the social network’s biggest group of users.
College students have a lot more on their plate than updating their Facebook status and the site is considered a time-waster by many professors and parents, but its immense popularity is the driving force behind several new sites created as a place for students to share class notes, ask questions or study with others.
The rising popularity of social media is causing educators and entrepreneurs to market software that makes sharing class notes or collaborating on projects as simple as updating your Facebook status.
“Our mission is to make the world one big study group,” Phil Hill, chief executive of OpenStudy, a social-learning site that started as a project of Emory University and Georgia Tech, told the Chronicle of Higher Education.
OpenStudy and several other social-learning sites are for-profit companies and others plan to be once their services take off. Some of the sites rely on the controversial practice of paying students for their notes.
Below you can read more about five of the most popular Facebook-like study sites for college students.
FinalsClub is a free online forum where student bloggers can share class notes and form study groups. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the web portal was started by Andrew Magliozzi, a 2005 Harvard graduate who began publicly posting his class notes online when he was a college student. His professor became angry and requested that Magliozzi take down the notes.
Students can create a free FinalsClub account or simply log in using their Facebook account with Facebook Connect, which offers the ability to easily share notes and materials with Facebook friends as well as on FinalsClub.
Magliozzi lets professors opt out of having their classes blogged, but most have opted in. Some who object to note sharing between their students consider it intellectual-property theft and others don’t want to help students skip class.
GradeGuru is a note-sharing website run by the textbook publisher McGraw-Hill Education. GradeGuru offers free class notes and study guides to visitors, but the site is controversial because it pays students small rewards based on the popularity of their notes. Rewards are offered in cash or as gift cards to merchants including iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy and more. GradeGuru claims that some 5-star rated study guides for a class are earning upwards of $15 per note.
Notes, study guides and other materials are categorized by school and subject. Students can join GradeGuru directly or sign in with their Facebook account.
Mixable is a social learning environment created by Purdue University. Mixable lets Purdue students share notes and coursework as well as form study groups within Facebook using a free application developed at the school. A web version also exists for non-Facebook users.
Students can upload class notes or other documents through Mixable thanks to Purdue’s partnership with the online file-storage service called Dropbox. Purdue hopes to make Mixable available to other colleges and is currently exploring whether to make it free online or to sell it to a software company.
NoteUtopia is an online community where students can upload and download class documents, including class notes, study guides, handouts, reports, quizzes and more. Documents are specific to a particular class, and students can find documents by looking up their class or professor.
The quality of the documents available on NoteUtopia is based on a 5-star rating system. The site’s users can rate both the documents’ uploader and each individual document and personalized comments can be left so that the downloader will know the quality of the notes ahead of time.
NoteUtopia prides itself as “the key for you to Study Better” and even claims to be “the perfect place for you to succeed in your classes and make some friends along the way,” but it’s not without controversy. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that California State University officials recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to NoteUtopia citing an unusual state law that bars the distribution of lecture information, including “handwritten or typewritten class notes,” for a profit. (Students are paid for uploading notes, study guides, notes, reports and quizzes.)
OpenStudy, which urges visitors to join the “world’s largest study group,” is a start-up company spun off by Georgia Tech and Emory University to create a social media platform for independent learners who want to help one another study the educational materials published free online by universities.
OpenStudy is also free at the moment, but the company hopes to make money by offering a premium version of the software that offers additional features. Users can create free OpenStudy accounts or log in with their Facebook accounts.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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