Academic collaboration Online

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By Thomas Scott

Website gives students the opportunity to work together through social learning

Students who find it difficult to collaborate academically with their peers over the Internet have a new web-based service to turn to.

It is called COOPLearn, and its creators tout it as a “Social Learning Management System placed in the hands of the students.”

In effect, this platform allows students to share information with ease by organizing it and allowing students to access it at any place they have an Internet connection.

The concept of the site was devised by University of Toronto graduates Bassil Eid and Robin Defaye.

According to Eid, the primary strength of COOPLearn is that it lets its users “constantly tackle the problems, all together, all the time.”

The service is currently in its beta stage, but according to Eid the site was “officially launched in September.”

Even though it was formally launched last month, Eid asserts that the site is in a constant state of improvement and that he and the other developers are always changing it.

A student must first sign up for the service by providing his or her e-mail address, at which point a verification e-mail is sent out.

Once a student verifies her account and logs in, she can then view the variety of features at her disposal. The interface allows one to search for other scholars and set the academic network you wish to join.

The site also presents options to rate the quality of study rooms.

Additionally there is a useful calendar option that lets students plan for events such as study sessions, due dates and tests.

Just like Facebook or any other social media site, there is a notifications tab which keeps users up-to-date with the activities of their respective study rooms.

Also similar to social media services, users can upload a profile picture in order to better identify themselves to their peers.

According to Eid, COOP-Learn fills a niche that is partially occupied by what he refers to as “question and answer websites.” Such websites include Yahoo! Answers, WikiAnswers and Ask.com.

Eid notes that users can look for specific sections of such Q-and-A sites, but more often than not such sites “give you a free for all.”

The chaotic environment Eid is referring to can be seen on sites such as Yahoo! Answers, where users often do not know the individual who is providing the answer to their query.

COOPLearn removes that uncertainty, since the site “is centered and focused toward that specific class that you’re taking,” says Eid.

However, the site does make provisions for referencing source material.

According to Eid, before uploading a file to the study group users must first fill out a mechanism “that asks [users] to reference the entire” source.

The site’s Privacy Policy makes the point that it “does not tolerate plagiarism of any form,” and that sources must “be referenced properly using [the site’s] citation mechanism.”

If users do not meet this criteria and the citation is not satisfactory, the COOPLearn Staff “may conduct searches on uploaded content.”

Moreover, if the staff “believes that specific material has not been referenced properly, [they] will warn” the user about the “mistake and request proper citation.”

If no change is made after three days, the flagged material will be removed from the site.

The site appears to target university students and, because of this, the privacy policy highlights the possibility that users “under the age of 10 may not find the services provided by COOPLearn beneficial.”

Despite the complexities involved with creating a new website, Eid stated that he and his four peers aren’t in it for the money.

“I think it’s … a passion to want to … change something that I thought was broken,” says Eid. “I just … made up a goal and made it an obsession to see it through,” he remarked.

As COOPLearn develops its user base and content, it will no doubt be able to engage more users in its interactive learning process.

Anyone interested in learning more about COOPLearn or using it can visit cooplearn.com.

 

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