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Networking site a cure for UI ‘study blues’

BY MAGGIE PETERS | MARCH 3, 2009 7:20 AM

When UI senior Emili Panio had the stomach flu and missed a week of class, she was overwhelmed with makeup work. But she found relief in StudyBlue, which allowed her to scan others’ lecture notes online.

“I was able to find a woman in my Leisure in Contemporary Society class on the site, and she ended up giving me all the notes I had missed from lecture,” said Panio, 21.

She is among 1,570 UI members registered on the education-based social networking site. It allows users to upload and share class notes and chapter outlines, study flash cards, join study groups, and use peer tutors.

Gerry McKiernan, a science and technology librarian at Iowa State University, said educational networks such as StudyBlue are reinventing the whole educational experience. He lectures nationally on the topic of social networking, most recently “niche” networking.

“My view is that social networking can create, foster, and facilitate the creation of virtual communities not limited by time or space,” he said. “Communication can now become broader than local communication could be.”

The mixed use of messaging, audio, and video all come together to create a more dynamic and advantageous environment, especially when it comes to learning, McKiernan said.

Another benefit of educational networks is their helpfulness to students who are less assertive in class, he said. His research found that shy students feel more comfortable contributing online, and social networks can even facilitate face-to-face communication.

Despite StudyBlue’s use on campus by some — it started at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006 — many students and professors are unaware of these sites.

UI Associate Professor Scott Robinson, who teaches elementary psychology, said he had never heard of educational networking sites, despite his course being one used by students on StudyBlue.

He has no problem with students utilizing the service as long as they are not selling notes or papers, he said.

“Sharing notes is no different from what students have been doing for 100 years,” Robinson said. “As long as information is not being misrepresented, I do not view it as cheating.”

Panio said she would like to see more UI students using StudyBlue. She has noticed many classes in her majors — communication studies and theater — don’t have a section on StudyBlue, unlike many of her general-education courses.

“The more students, the better,” she said.


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