A new website has been created by students with the aim to make schoolwork less stressful. The website, called Cooplearn, connects students in online study groups that allow them to work together toward a better understanding of material.
The focus of university programs on grades and testing, rather than learning the information to obtain knowledge, frustrated Cooplearn co-creator Bassil Eid, a graduate student at the University of Ottawa. However, when he studied with a group, he felt that getting an assignment done or doing well on an exam was inevitable, and it allowed him to better focus on acquiring knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
“Going through my master’s degree, my first semester I did pretty much by myself and the second semester the students really started to band together. We started doing the assignments together,” says Eid. “It relieved the stress, took the pressure off. I was able to sit down and learn the actual material that was being taught, and I thought to myself, ‘Why was that not there all the time?’ I had gone through five years of university prior to that, focusing on the actual assessments.”
The website allows students to create personal profiles and then participate in study rooms. Each study room represents a course—although a course may have multiple study rooms, depending on student preference. Study rooms may either be public or private, but they all allow students to upload assignments, share notes, collaborate on exams, or participate in general discussions.
Eid says, “I think the main benefit is just the mentality of it, that feeling of, ‘We’re going to get this done. With everyone we’re going to do it. Now we can just focus on learning the actual stuff.’ It kind of lets you take control of your education—to just do what you’re there to do, which is to learn, not to achieve high marks. At the end of the day, a guy sitting in his room by himself can only learn so much. It’s only through bouncing ideas off others where you really get the full scope of a topic. Social learning is the key.”
A student uploading assignments, however, does leave room for the possibility of other students passing those assignments off as their own work. While the website is not able to stop students from passing off work as their own in their courses, it has ways to prevent students submitting plagiarized work to the site.
Eid says, “We have two things to really combat plagiarism. Students can study in private groups. Second, before you upload notes, assignments, exams, you need to cite them. We don’t let you upload it if you don’t cite it. We thought long and hard about this; we are not oblivious to this. We’re not for plagiarism, we are for discussion and collaboration.”
A rating system is also in place, which is used largely to identify key discussions and encourage participation, although users have the option to hide their own ratings.
Eid says, “If you’re in a study room and someone posts a question and you know the answer and you know if you post it you’re probably going to get a good rating, you’re more likely going to write your thoughts or answers. If you don’t know the answer, and if you’re a keen student, you’re going to go out and find that answer and you’re going to write it down and you’re going to up your ratings. So it’s like a little playful game to encourage participation. But it also does highlight the more rich discussions.”
The website is still in its beta stage and is open to suggestions from users to improve the site. Eid says, “Moving forward, students really requested a chat function, and we’re actually working on a chat function right now.”