I came across OpenStudy.com on Giorgio Bertini’s blog Learning Technologies of Change, and the concept severely interested me. In a sort of real-time Yahoo! Answers, students get their study questions addressed by other students, real teachers, and other experts in live chat and diagrams. Studying is one of those things that could really benefit from crowdsourcing, so I immediately jumped into this platform to see if it was any good. Here’s a quick rundown.
- Easy signup and interface. Since elementary school kids use this site, it has to be easy. The sign-up requires minimal information, and this site has huge, colorful, easy-to-find buttons that make it easy for any literate person to find what they’re looking for.
- Real-time is really real. The site tells you at any given moment how many people are online, how many people are in your specific subject group, how many people are viewing your particular question, who is in the process of responding to it… it’s a great way to gauge your chances of getting help, and to prevent 50 people from answering the same easy math question at once.
- Gamification provides incentive. Answer a question correctly, ask a good question, or say something that people agree with, and you get a medal. Medals give you experience, and experience levels you up in a particular subject. The higher your level, the more credible a source you are. It’s a wonderful system that both encourages quality involvement and provides on-the-fly user moderation.
- Relatively small community. Sure, the math and physics boards are blowing up, but if you’re in a less technical or popular subject, you may find only a few users at any given time willing to help you out. Sometimes a question can go days without being answered, which can be a real issue for students with deadlines.
- Lack of group identity. As a new community, OpenStudy isn’t really cohesive yet. This means very little “etiquette”; math questions get posted in art history boards, spelling and grammar is atrocious, it seems like there is more of a focus on simply getting your questions answered and not actually learning the material sometimes. Some users care about these issues and some don’t, but the point is that unless moderators step in with some ground rules, differing viewpoints will continue to cause friction among users.
Both of these cons can be solved simply by having a bigger, more active community, so I’m just gonna go ahead and suggest that any student, educator, expert, researcher, or curious person should join this site immediately. It’s a great platform; it just needs that little push to be something really fantastic.