Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Schools Go into the 'Cloud' to Embrace the Popularity of Social Media ; New Platforms Combine Education and Internet to Aid Students and Teachers

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Schools Go into the 'Cloud' to Embrace the Popularity of Social Media ; New Platforms Combine Education and Internet to Aid Students and Teachers

Article excerpt

New companies are offering online services that let teachers create, share and manage academic content, and also let students collaborate on platforms that are similar to Facebook's.

The newest catchphrase in online education is social learning.

Several start-up companies have begun offering cloud-based platforms that combine education and social media. Companies like Teamie, based in Singapore, provide software that lets teachers create, share and manage academic content, and also let students collaborate on assignments on platforms that are similar to the "walls" used on Facebook.

Learning management systems, or L.M.S.'s, have been around since the late 1990s, when Blackboard, a company in Washington D.C., introduced an online platform to help educators customize course management. Today, there are more than 60 companies providing such services worldwide.

"Blackboard, Moodle and Sakaihave a philosophy that hasn't changed much since Blackboard first invented the space in the '90s," said Hunter Horsley, the head of marketing and operations at Lore,referring to other learning-management systems. "They are typical L.M.S.'s -- software that's licensed, often for quite a bit of money, to school administrations and then provided to the faculty, primarily as a way to keep files and grades."

Lore, which was originally known as Coursekit, began operations last December and changed its name to Lore in April. The company, based in New York, offers its platform for free.

"Lore offers similar things for courses, like calendar, file, and grade management, but we don't think of ourselves as an L.M.S. We're building a platform for learning," Mr. Horsley said, pointing out that the company was marketing directly to students and teachers.

In the United States, free social learning platforms like Edmodo and Schoology have been making waves in secondary schools. Edmodo, which was set up in 2008, has about six million users in about 70,000 U.S. high schools. Schoology, which was founded in 2009, is available in more than 18,000 schools internationally, though most of those schools are in the United States. Lore is already in use in 600 U.S. colleges and universities.

Teamie, which was founded last year, introduced a pay-as-you-go social learning platform that costs on average 3 to 7 Singapore dollars, or as much as $5.50, per student each month.

Ashwin Singh, a co-founder of Teamie, said that while the company also offered a free version, the subscription service could be customized to an institution's business processes and offers administrative features to better manage multiple classrooms. …

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