Online study groups
OpenStudy is a social networking site that provides a framework for groups of students to connect online and help each other learn. A for-profit business recently launched by folks from Georgia Tech and Emory University, OpenStudy has received funding from the National Science Foundation and other agencies.
The system allows you to
- Create and join study groups,
- Ask and answer questions,
- Create a home page where people can discover your interests, and
- Follow other users and topics
The idea of online study groups has great potential for nontraditional learners as well as regular college students. I like the idea of my students being able to connect with other students from different institutions, but this service will only be successful if a significant number of users perceive a value they can’t receive somewhere else.
OpenStudy made a splash when it partnered with MIT OpenCourseware (OCW) this fall, in what could evolve into a great combination. I became aware of the service when Notre Dame’s OCW director approached me about creating a study group for my course. After less than a week there are twelve members in the group, some of whom are just curious. OpenStudy also appears to have planted “ringers” – students who are seeding study groups with questions and answers. This could turn out to be an excellent strategy for building momentum.
This is new software in a beta state and there are confusing bits. For example, what is a “study pad”? It looks like a wiki page. There’s a formula editor, useful for STEM courses, but no there’s obvious way to embed an image into a study pad, let alone sound or video. The site confused me visually; compare it with the competing site Study Curve and see which one you think is easier to follow.
I was unable to see much difference between a home page and a profile. In the profile settings, I was surprised that there was no way to hide my name. I entered a fake name in my profile, since I didn’t want to be deluged with questions about the course.
After you figure out what you want to do, the tools are easy to use and they function quickly. All in all, it’s a good start.
- Start-Up Aspires to Make the World ‘One Big Study Group’ (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
- “Breaking News” video from CNN.com