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New Web site melds study groups with social networking


Aaron Allina was newly out of college with an engineering degree when a former employer asked him to do a computer programming task.

Allina scoured online search engines and forums looking for programming help. From Portland, Ore., it took him three weeks to find someone in New York who took him under his wing.

Now in Denver, Allina has created a business and Web site,, to make the search for expert help much faster.

“It goes back to wishing I had something like that,” Allina said.

StudyCurve melds social networking with education to help middle school to graduate school students find experts to answer questions and to form virtual study groups, Allina said.

StudyCurve users create online profiles with a list of their classes, interests and subject areas. They can post photos, form groups on various topics, and designate “study buddies.”

Users can ask questions that StudyCurve sends out only to other users who tag themselves as having expertise on that topic. They can provide answers and rate other people’s answers. People whose answers get a certain amount of high ratings become listed as experts.

Unlike “expertise location systems” that some companies use to help employees answer questions or find experts in-house, StudyCurve offers the potential to pick the brains of millions of users.

The site, which hopes to attract advertisers, also allows users to look up previously asked questions and their answers.

“The focus of this particular group is excellent,” said Forrester Research Inc. analyst Charlene Li, who studies social networking. “A general site for `these are my friends and this is what music I like’ that wouldn’t fly in the age of MySpace and Facebook.”

StudyCurve officially launched Tuesday from ground zero, after about 30 beta testers used the site for a month.

One tester, 22-year-old Bruce Clark, said he wished the site were around when he was still in school but that he will keep using it. The digital media studies graduate has swapped ideas on typography and layouts with other testers on the site.

“It’s really cool to finally have a whole forum that isn’t just completely text-based and is a little more personal,” said Clark, who graduated from the University of Denver this spring.

“I really like Facebook, but I don’t get a lot done there.”

StudyCurve represents a new wrinkle in the educational possibilities of the Internet, which already allows students to chat online with far-flung tutors or take courses over the Web.

“That’s exactly the way the new generation of workers wants to be able to get assistance, where they drive the learning. They’re not waiting for someone saying you have to go to class,” said Forrester senior analyst Claire Schooley, who looks at e-learning.

Instead of sending an instant message to a classmate on a calculus problem, a student using StudyCurve could potentially ask millions for homework help, if the site catches on.

“It’s something we’re going to see more and more of, is this need to learn when you want to, when you need to and when you’re on the move,” Schooley said. “It’s the direct opposite of sitting down and listening to somebody in a classroom.”

– Associated Press

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