Web CT creator to "Brainify" students

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By Rosemary Lane on 31.1.2024

Web CT creator to "Brainify" students

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Three years ago, Murray Goldberg, creator of Web CT, noticed a lack of student academic communities online. Students have Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, but nowhere they can communicate outside of the classroom.

Mr Goldberg’s answer was Brainify.com , a site that allows students and professors in higher education to bookmark academic web sites, create groups of similar academic interest, pose questions and rate users’ reputations to decide how valid a contribution is.

“I always had the desire of doing something to build an academic community around the world,” Goldberg states. “We’ve produced a place that has the resources where you can research a topic for class, study for an exam, etc.”

The web site was accessible officially on January 21st, and already roughly 200 universities signed up so far. If sold, Mr Goldberg intends to donate 30 percent of the profits to the users. He believes early posters deserve some sort of reward, due to it being “quiet at the beginning.” He hopes the reward will give people an incentive to start up the groups and posts.

Mr Goldberg uses Brainify.com to teach in his computer science class at the University of British Columbia, and deems it as a great success.

He will also be contributing to the website himself if students are having difficulties understanding materials, by posting academic references as bookmarks online.

Brainify, which Mr Goldberg said he chose because people won’t forget nor misspell the name, is fairly easy to navigate. One can type in “kinetics” or “media,” and receive a list of pertinent academic resources. Alternatively, users may initiate their own topic and also post sites.

Mr Goldberg’s small staff, consisting of three full-time and one part time employee, is developing a new feature to allow voting. If an item is deemed inappropriate, users can vote to have it removed.

Users can also rate other member’s contributions. The more valid materials posted, the higher the rating of the member (Mr Goldberg said he currently holds the highest number of ratings). In this way, you can discern the most reputable sites, he said.

Yet what distinguishes Brainify from more popular sites like Google or academic research databases like ProQuest?

“I hope what’s different is that it’s them,” Mr Goldberg declares. “Students aren’t in Google; they can’t help each other. What Brainify has is them. When a student comes to Brainify, the next student can benefit from what the first one did.”

Danny Rahimi, a third-year majoring in business administration, said he would definitely use the site.

“Yeah, it’s always good to get opinions from other people. I would use that,” he said.

On the other hand, Zoe Philip, an economics major, said she would try to look for herself for research materials before consulting the site.

“In theory, yes, it would be awesome, but from a student’s perspective I feel like I already have enough going on and it wouldn’t be my first pick. It would be underused,” she said.

Mr Goldberg said there are millions of “phenomenal” academic sites available, but Brainify’s job is to find and organize them.

“Wikipedia is phenonomenal. But it’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Goldberg. “Our question is how do we make sense of it?”

Still, Mr Goldberg maintains that the web site is to be entirely student-run, free from any corporate push or advertisements. He said he views the site as a service.

“If Brainify is successful, its power will be of the members of the site. We want this truly driven by the community, and not by us,” he said. “It will live or die by word of mouth.”

Mr Goldberg said it would take years for one person to compile a million bookmarks, but if many users catalogue five web sites, the process would be simple.

He said he feels the web site will be successful, as Web CT was, which serves about 12 million students and was sold to Washington-based Blackboard Inc. in 2006, according to Brainify’si press release.

“I think it’s the right thing. If I was a student, I would want something like this to exist. My honest desire is if four years from now, we’ll have the most absolute academic information that exists.”



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