It’s the beginning of a long night inside Leavey Library and the text makes no sense. You need more help than Charlie Sheen, but you don’t know too many other students in your lecture, and tracking them down on Facebook would take longer than counting every granule of sand along the California coast. The professor posted the syllabus and holds office hours, but other than that, you have little interaction.
In short, your academic experience is isolated and limited.
But the arrival of Coursekit will soon turn isolated and limited learning into invigorating and unlimited learning. Coursekit is a new academic platform through which instructors and students can interact online in a social, collaborative fashion. It’s a portable discussion at our fingertips. It presents the chance to learn from others, to teach others and to say hello to someone you met in class.
Founders Joseph Cohen, Dan Getelman and Jim Grandpre dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to start Coursekit after securing a $1 million investment last spring.
Their decision is unconventional, but having swam upstream against academic culture, the founders are now poised to change it.
Higher education has been in need of a revolution since the arrival of social media changed the way we interact. The convenience and fluidity that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer in sharing photos, résumés and quirky thoughts needs to make its way into higher education.
The social generation wants platforms where sharing is simple and continuous.
Blackboard is anything but social. For one, it’s practically anonymous: Students are only identified by names and emails. Professors don’t update it often enough. And its multimedia capabilities are limited and difficult to use.
Coursekit offers solutions to Blackboard’s problems. These solutions will not only increase the quality of our education, but they will do so through tools that are already familiar to millions of college students.
Videos from lab dissection, art samples from the girl a few rows behind you and study tips from the students who set the curve can all be shared and viewed with a simple click. A course calendar offers a clean and fresh alternative to student planners. You can live chat with the professor and other students; inquiring emails sent around a mysterious Listserv are superseded by instantaneous responses and tailored feedback. Facebook meets the classroom.
The greatest revolution Coureskit will precipitate is the redefinition of the student-teacher relationship.
The academic norm has been one where the professor lectures and the students take notes; interactions are usually one-on-one. But Coursekit presents a chance for each student to turn his proverbial chair toward the center of the circle and engage in a more communal learning space.
It’s time for Blackboard to step aside. With Coursekit, constructive interaction with others doesn’t stop when the discussion section ends.
Reed Foster is a sophomore majoring in economics.