using blackboard

Stressed Trent students currently contemplating strategies for how to navigate the oncoming storm of final assignments and papers may now have a new tool at their disposal.

A new wave of student-centered online learning platforms have emerged in recent years with the goal to relieve the March and April months of stresses and anxieties.

One such website is cooplearn.com, launched by entrepreneur and Trent alumnus Bassil Eid and co-founder Robin Defaye.

Eid’s days as a masters student at the University of Ottawa were his inspiration for the site, which he hopes will be a collaborative and relaxed online environment where students can seek solace in their cohorts when they’re overwhelmed by academic pressures.

“When I was doing my Master’s degree in economics, finding a solid core group of friends during my second semester allowed me to take a load off and focus on doing the work and not worry about not getting it done, because I knew I was going to have that support the whole time,” says Eid.

Eid hopes that Cooplearn can facilitate the same feelings of camaraderie that carried him through his time at uOttawa.

The website will ideally allow students to harness the power of their social networks to tackle challenging assignments and concepts in a friendly, pressure-free online setting.

In Eid’s opinion, the peer-focused nature of Cooplearn is what sets it apart from other learning management systems like Blackboard.

“The problem with Blackboard is that its run by the professors, it’s run by the teachers, and usually when you have that you create an environment where the student is a bit more hesitant to provide  feedback because you always have ‘Big Brother’ watching,” Eid asserted. “In an LMS platform run by, let’s say, one of your friends or one of your classmates, you’re more likely to participate in a fruitful, interactive discussion.”

The website allows users to set up ‘study rooms’ where students in the same course or program can post questions, work through course material, engage in discussions and share ideas concerning upcoming assignments and exams.

Eid and Defaye also plan to add a chat function sometime in the near future. Students from multiple disciplines ranging from English Literature to Physics are avid users of the site according to Cooplearn’s founders, who say that Philosophy and Mathematics are the two subject areas that are most heavily represented.

“The platform is not subject-specific,” said Eid.

“It was built to incorporate students from all disciplines, whether they be in the arts or sciences.”

An array of mechanisms have been added to the website to combat the concerns related to plagiarism and “free-riding” in the student-led Study Rooms.

“[Free-riding] is an issue we have really researched and examined,” said Eid. “Students do have the ability to create Study Rooms which are private, and they are able to close [the Study Room] off to students who, let’s say, aren’t sufficiently contributing to the discussion.

“So, the students have the control within this environment. We try to mimic a real-life environment online, so, like in real life you can go off with a group of friends that you choose, and exclude those who may free-ride.”

During an era of rising tuition costs and an increasingly competitive job market, there is undeniable pressure on students to achieve academic excellence.

Eid believes that cooplearn.com, with its ability to foster a fun, collaborative pedagogical milieu online, can be a pivotal tool in helping a struggling student attain that excellence.

“It’s a given that university will always pose an immense challenge to many students,” said Eid, and added, “But it’s not a given that these students should have to face that challenge on their own.”