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Indiana U Professor Launches Free Online Social Network for Classrooms

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis computer scientist and entrepreneur Ali Jafari has rolled out a free social network designed to connect educators and students from around the world with common interests and class subjects.

CourseNetworking (CN), which is open to any user, "combines aspects of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter with functionality similar to existing learning management systems used at many colleges and universities," according to information released by the university.

"Many students and teachers have tried to leverage existing social networks for learning with little success," said Jafari, a professor of computer and information technology and director of the CyberLab at the IUPUI School of Engineering and Technology. "Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are designed for much broader socializing and information sharing, whereas the sole focus of CN is improved learning through learning collaboration and networking. All functionality within the system is designed with that goal in mind and strives to make shared learning as easy as possible for all its users."

Once they're logged into the network, users can:

  • Share notes, reading materials and articles;
  • Collaborate on homework assignments;
  • Socialize with other virtual classmates around the world studying the same subject; and
  • Control access to information to registered classmates or connections, or make it visible to all users.

CN will also feature a reward system, designed to motivate students through healthy, fun competition.

CN's software platform is expected to be available next spring via the software-as-a-service model. It is designed to work alongside existing learning management systems such as IU's  Oncourse, which allows students and faculty to access syllabi and grades, communicate through course mail, chat rooms and discussion forums, access online quizzes and surveys, and store electronic files.

Oncourse, one of Jafari's previous projects, was purchased by Blackboard for $100 million in 2009 and is now called ANGEL Learning.

Owned in part by IU, the company is expected to generate revenue through targeted advertising and will invite 20 educational institutions from the United States and 20 from other countries to invest in and become equity owners.

For more information on IU economic development and engagement initiatives, visit innovate.indiana.edu.

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