Grade Guru – Facebook for learning?

While Facebook started off as a social networking platform for students only, it never really had much of a focus on supporting learning – and has had relatively limited take up as a collaborative learning tool (which may even be tailing off as more adverts and controversies over privacy and IP ownership occur).

Courtesy of Shona Mullen of McGraw-Hill I had a peek at ‘Grade Guru‘ yesterday – a new social networking app focussed on note sharing and collaborative learning.

The idea is that students can submit their own notes of classes for other students taking the same/similar classes to use. Notes can be rated by readers, and points are awarded to the highest rating notes. Then (the incentive part here) points can be traded in for a fair variety of rewards… including paypal credit.

The community is very small at the moment, but it will be interesting to see if it grows and takes off. Will the rewards attract high quality notes? I think there are some software issues to resolve in the short term, and the system is clearly undergoing a lot of development at the moment.

Lest people worry about this becoming another major source of plagiarism, Shona was keen to emphasise note sharing… not assignment sharing – and pointed out that content is submitted to plagiarism detection services precisely for this reason.

4 thoughts on “Grade Guru – Facebook for learning?

  1. Emily Sawtell

    Let me say upfront that I am the founder of GradeGuru at McGraw-Hill… Further to Daniel’s point re plagiarism, it has been noted that while we very clearly state in the GradeGuru Community Standards that users should not use the site in any way that violates ethical academic principles (some of which is reproduced at the end of this comment), plagiarism could be made more of a “front and centre” issue in the main part of the site itself. We are considering a few options here in addition to the plagiarism detection service angle already mentioned:
    1) Providing free advice and information for students to ensure they are well versed on plagiarism and know how to adequately reference all of their work
    2) Creating links to that advice and commentary about plagiarism more prominently on the notes usage pages on GradeGuru
    3) Highlighting the issue and our policy re academic misconduct on our homepage

    You will note on our page for notes upload we already have large, bold warnings about what constitutes copyright infringement and what will and will not be tolerated in terms of uploaded notes.

    We are very keen to help students help themselves and each other and of course believe plagiarism does not help anyone! We would be interested to know what people think about the above ideas – are they likely to patronize students or are they a good idea? Any other suggestions of how else we might communicate these points loud and clear? We think the site has the potential to be both a great help to struggling students and a platform to allow “star students” to help others and get the recognition they deserve. We are open to any suggestions on how to encourage proper use.

    B. Don’t rip off other people’s work
    Post only what you create and own. Notes and materials created by your university, college, school, professors, lecturers, tutors, or other publishers are not yours to give. Posting the work of others as if it is your own is theft – this is a black and white issue as far as GradeGuru is concerned. Don’t do it. Including some lines from a Shakespeare sonnet in an English poetry essay is OK. Borrowing material chunks of your English lecturer’s detailed handout on Shakespeare’s poetry isn’t. GradeGuru can’t lecture You on international copyright law – You know if you are doing something wrong.
    C. This is for your personal research use
    GradeGuru is for your own personal use ONLY. No collecting information about other users to send spam. No advertising. No copying, no publishing, no redistribution. Thanks.
    D. No plagiarism or cheating
    GradeGuru seeks to raise the educational playing field, not level it. You agree that we may supply Your Content (including that supplied prior to the version date of these Terms) to providers of anti-plagiarism tools at our discretion, so that such providers may, amongst other things, check the integrity of Your Content. Content posted by Users is only the start of your course and revision work, not an end in itself. Cheap plagiarism of material portions of essays and course work etc (a) is not the goal of GradeGuru (b) will not help you learn more, better or faster and (c) may be spotted by us and by teachers and examiners who use increasingly sophisticated anti-plagiarism tools (d) undermines the serious educational purpose of GradeGuru Services and (e) is a waste of your time. GradeGuru is not the lazy path to qualifications. It is a serious educational tool for those who want to be better educated, not just look better educated. GradeGuru does not want to alienate schools and teachers. We hope to earn their respect and participation.

  2. Daniel Livingstone

    Thanks for that Emily… I recognize that for the site to be successful it probably has to avoid being too ‘preachy’, but that you have thought about these issues.

    But I think there is probably some value in having a ‘study guide’ section or somesuch – students using the site might get value from this (though I guess you also want to encourage students to add their own study guides and advice)

  3. Kevin Cafaro

    I feel the site can be successful so long as the uploading rewards have perceived value in the eyes of the students. Perhaps a large emphasis on the rewards will help the site grow.


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