’08 alum brings virtual study hall to campus
Study halls are no longer just a setting for high-school tomfoolery.
An online startup founded by an alumnus of Washington University’s School of Law, titled StudyHall.com, is coming to campus this fall to consolidate academic life within a virtual space.
Created by 2008 graduate Ross Blankenship, the website utilizes a peer-to-peer learning platform for students to share information including notes and documents and provides students with a centralized forum.
As a student-driven platform, Studyhall.com seeks to foster an online atmosphere that blends social media networks and online academic resources.
“The idea for StudyHall.com came from my experiences in college using many different technologies to achieve one simple goal: getting better grades,” Blankenship said. “I thought, ‘Why weren’t universities making studying and collaboration simpler instead of tedious and painful?’”
Blankenship began a career in teaching after he graduated from law school. He found that students were frustrated with the available academic resources there as well.
“[Students] weren’t able to find the right connections for them. They felt that when they left the classroom, everything academic died,” Blankenship said. “They wanted to simplify their academic lives. I realized that there was a real need for a simple all-in-one platform for students.”
StudyHall.com is currently live at the University. The system was beta-tested with large classes in the mathematics, chemistry and biology departments. Harvard University, Yale University, Georgetown University and Cornell University were also involved in the beta test, which found that students spent an average of 1.5 hours a night on StudyHall.com. The University fully implemented the system in September after receiving positive feedback.
Students can now create online accounts, develop groups for certain classes and invite classmates to the website, giving group members access to a variety of class-specific, student-created resources.
The website emphasizes connecting students from around the globe on a single platform. Blankenship mentioned that the system has received requests for access from colleges in places like Hong Kong and India but insisted that he would need to have a smart plan for integrating such regions without diluting the quality of the content.
“There’s a need for non-traditional environments where students can collaborate. Truthfully, math at Wash. U. is the same as math in Argentina. There are students that are studying the same textbooks and the same concepts, so that’s what I’m truly passionate about,” Blankenship said. “It’s not just about creating another academic network that rivals Blackboard.”
Blankenship stressed that it is the students themselves who will build the system by adding material.
“We’re letting in those first five schools, and we have a really cool internship program at different schools where campus founders can take hold and be the representative of StudyHall at campus. It’s really a great opportunity for somebody to get on the ground floor of a start-up,” Blankenship said.
The effectiveness of StudyHall.com on college campuses has yet to be seen as the service becomes more popular with university students.
“I’ve never been that good at group work, so it’d depend on how fast-paced or collaborative it is,” freshman Allan Ngei said. “I’ve never used anything online, so I’d have to test it out. It’d be a good experience, so I’d try it. It depends on how easy it is to use.”
Freshman Orchideh Abar noted the need for crowd-sourcing for much of the website’s content.
“I definitely think it has potential,” Abar said. “I think it depends on the amount of people who actually end up participating. It’s just like Facebook—these things are driven by the masses. I think if it were one of those things where everyone’s doing it, I would do it.”