New Website Provides Alternative To Blackboard For Online Classwork
Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Students and professors frustrated with the Blackboard learning management system will be relieved to find out that they now have another option when it comes to posting and viewing readings, syllabi, and grades for classes: Coursekit, a program created by students and launched last Wednesday.
The system was created by Joseph Cohen, Jim Grandpre, and Dan Getelman, three former University of Pennsylvania students who were frustrated with Blackboard and eager to "reshape education for the internet age," according to the Coursekit website.
After coming up with the initial idea their freshman year, the trio decided to create a prototype and, after receiving $1 million in funding from sources including IA Ventures, Founder Collective, and some angel investors, the would-be juniors took a leave of absence from school to develop the program more fully.
Both Coursekit and Blackboard offer students and teachers a place to store and view calendars, PowerPoints, syllabi, calendars, grades, and documents, but Coursekit is free and also gives students the ability to post any type of media, easily ask their classmates and professors questions via notes or live chat, and even create a profile on the site. As of right now, administrators cannot sign up an entire school at one time. It is up to individual professors to sign themselves up and create a page for each of their courses.
"It's all about people getting to know each other and sharing great ideas," said Cohen, who is also the CEO of Coursekit, Inc. "The longer term goal is to do what Facebook and LinkedIn did for other parts of our lives to education."
He noted that while most of the average student's educational experience takes place in person and in classrooms, "our lives get much richer when [we use] the Internet."
Coursekit has a bright, modern-looking interface that contrasts sharply with Blackboard's muted layout. "It's very reliable and very slick," said Joe Clancy, campus representative for Coursekit and A&S '13. "It gets refined every day."
The beta version of Coursekit was tested in 80 courses at 30 universities nationwide this semester, including Boston College. Ellen Winner, chair of the psychology department at BC, was one of the first to try out the new program. "I'm toying between the aesthetic appeal of Coursekit and the simplicity of Blackboard," she said.
Cohen, who hopes that Coursekit will soon replace Blackboard entirely, said that the pilot version of Coursekit has gotten an incredible reception so far from the professors who tested the program.
"Coursekit is definitely an improvement over Blackboard," said Paul Boboc, A&S '15. "The simplicity and uniformity of the interface made learning the day's lectures and reading the posted texts very easy."
Cohen has high hopes for the fledgling system, which has already gotten the attention of Forbes magazine, The New York Times, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. "In the future, you're not just going to have your course on Coursekit." he said. "You're going to have your school on it."