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Notes making money

Credit: Maria Raffaele/Art Staff Credit: Maria Raffaele/Art Staff

Carnegie Mellon is one of the first schools to be selected to be a part of an online collaborative learning network called GradeGuru. Developed as an extension of the McGraw-Hill Company, GradeGuru is an online note-sharing site allowing students to expand their knowledge in a collaborative environment.

GradeGuru was recently developed, and Carnegie Mellon was selected alongside other highly accredited universities to set the bar for the academic excellence encouraged by the GradeGuru network. Along with Carnegie Mellon, schools like Yale, Duke, and the University of Pennsylvania are target schools for the site because of the caliber of undergraduate students.

As a recent start-up, GradeGuru’s current focus is on collecting notes and rewarding its contributors with money for their notes to lay the foundation for their vision of a web 2.0 version of a study group — a collaborative learning experience online.

The website allows students to upload study materials and notes to receive cash, gift cards, and feedback. In turn, students looking for inspiration or help in their coursework can search for relevant study notes for specific courses and download them for free. Students who contribute to the site receive payment based on a points system: Points are determined by an algorithm that incorporates quantity, but more importantly quality, of each contributor’s notes and study materials.

GradeGuru is based on concepts similar to other note-sharing websites, such as Knetwit.com, but the McGraw-Hill sponsorship contributes some unique features of the site. According to Carnegie Mellon student Aleksey Tigay, a junior in business administration and GradeGuru representative, “GradeGuru provides more ways to search and look up notes. It also places an emphasis on quality of notes so students know that they information they are receiving is going to be beneficial.”

A quality that separates GradeGuru from similar sites is its partnership with TurnItIn.com, a plagiarism prevention service. The GradeGuru site promises to provide students with an “ethically sound platform for collaborative learning.”

While many students find note-sharing sites extremely useful, others are a bit more skeptical about their legitimacy. When asked about whether she would use a website like GradeGuru, first-year economics student Nicole Bayley said, “Probably not; I’m a pretty independent worker and I generally rely on my own notes. If I need help [from] someone, I would probably ask a friend or a professor instead of looking online. I guess I might use it if I have no other options.”

Laurence Ales, an economics professor, believes “there is a potential risk on spending time on material that is not 100 percent related to the course. There are already many resources that students have available: If they have questions the should simply come to office hours or send questions to their professors.”

In order to assuage many students’ fears about registering for any new sites, GradeGuru developer Emily Sawtell said, “Students do not have to pay to use GradeGuru, unlike some other study-help and notes-sharing sites. In fact, you do not even have to register before you get a sense for the site — you can check out 10 notes first and decide whether GradeGuru is for you. GradeGuru was the first notes sharing site to offer ‘try before you buy’ — we think it is such a compelling value proposition that once students see what is available, they will register and start contributing too.”

GradeGuru is currently providing additional incentive for students to upload notes to their site. In cooperation with McGraw-Hill, GradeGuru is offering a $1500 scholarship to the student who receives the most points this semester. If $1500 isn’t enough motivation for some students, Sawtell believes that the scholarship will provide academic recognition and “will look great on the winner’s résumé too.”

While GradeGuru is still a relatively new site, they will soon allow students to search for notes based on certain textbooks, a new blog allowing students to share any academic news, and a faster and further improved search function.

For more information about GradeGuru, visit their site at www.gradeguru.com.