Keywords: Social networking, Web development, Software engineering
As a freshman, under the supervision of Prof. Anwitaman Datta, I led a team of six to participate in Oracle’s ThinkQuest competition. We developed a web-based social networking application for academia that aimed at “Networking & Nourishing Minds” by helping people ‘connect’ with each other and learn by sharing their ideas, resources and experiences.
During this project, I successfully implemented a collaborative whiteboard that allowed participants to share an interface in which they could see what others are drawing as they are drawing it, and could simultaneously chat and draw when it’s their turn. This project helped me develop strong web programming skills in PHP and jQuery. It also gave me firsthand experience in web designing using HTML5 and CSS3, and designing databases and software systems. Having worked on this project in my freshman year itself, really helped me with the courses and projects I undertook in subsequent years. This experience also motivated me to approach other professors, asking them about their research and how I could contribute to it.
The Problem we intended to solve:
Over the past few years, e-learning has become a very important tool in education. Institutions use the Internet to send out notes, alerts and other information to the students. Such platforms often support one-way information flow i.e. from teachers-to-students, however, they seldom facilitate student-to-student/ teacher interactions since they lack appropriate tools. As a result, e-learning has become merely a way to disseminate information.
After interviewing our classmates we found that many of them concurred. So, our team pondered – “How do we increase student-to-student/teacher interactions?”, “How to possibly give them a way to discuss their projects, hobbies and courses together?” So, we thought of developing this “tool” to help us in our day-to- day academic/ non-academic issues.
Brief overview of features:
In our app, every user had his/her own profile and could add/invite peers. Then, they could form classrooms to discuss their subject matter, group projects or hobbies. These classrooms had tools like ‘Class Blog’, ‘Forum’ and ‘Collaborative Whiteboard’ to make learning interactive. Social networking features like chat, activity alerts, message alerts and settings for alerts and personal information also helped to get the users more involved. There was another feature called “Find An Expert” which brought the virtual classroom to reality. Using this feature, users could find out who is an expert in a particular topic.
Target Audience and Conclusion
Our target audience contained students and teachers. We tested our application in pilot study, involving school teachers as learners and a professor from the University as the teacher, during a short teacher training course.
“ConnectedCampus” aimed at “Networking And Nourishing Minds”. “Networking” by helping students connect with each other. “Nourishing” by helping them learn together by sharing their ideas, resources and experiences. By bringing students from across the globe/ university together, “ConnectedCampus” encouraged sharing and interaction among peers as well as fostered creativity, teamwork and the quest to learn more.
Our app helped learners leverage on the “wisdom of the crowd” and “wisdom of experts” (good students or teachers). It served to integrate these two valuable sources of knowledge through the power of social networking and e-learning, thereby providing a platform for learners of the 21st century to exchange ideas and share knowledge.