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Xplana Learning Platform Blends Education Resources with Social Networking

A Missouri company is looking to crack into the education market with a "social learning platform" that lets students search for academic resources and interact, collaborate, and share with each other outside of traditional learning management systems. The University of Missouri is piloting the use of Xplana from MBS Service Co.

Xplana provides a way for students to do all of their studying and social networking from a single Web site. On its home page the company currently boasts of having "250,000 educational assets." The user can look up assets in the collection by topic (such as "science and computer science"), type (for example, "Web pages"), and tags (such as "Flash").

The application relies on search and discovery technology from MarkLogic. Xplana's content flows through the MarkLogic Server, a repository for XML data, including documents, books, messages, user-generated content, and other kinds of unstructured information. MarkLogic also enables Xplana to connect to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The Xplana service is free to participating students; institutions that choose to adopt the platform pay a fee. The program provides a content management system to let faculty and staff publish and distribute content. For example, faculty can upload files, such as videos, audio, links, presentations, and print, that are converted into online documents accessible by students. It also has embedded assessment tools, such as an online quiz engine and gradebook.

The pilot taking place at U Missouri this fall is studying the site's effect on student learning. Several faculty are documenting what's effective or not with various aspects of the service.

"Xplana is a great platform for students to collaborate on study materials. It will allow students to save time and turn the focus away from preparation and towards studying. It's a way to connect and share the workload. When studying for a test, one could propose to make a study guide for chapters 1-10 and someone else 10-20," said U Missouri senior Ali Rife. "I believe learning should be done as a group--students feeding off one another--allowing the material to be 'less book' and more conversation."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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