Here is the latest edition of OwlBuzz, the OpenStudier’s own guide to the community, created by OpenStudiers and for the community:
This time, Akashdeep takes over the leadership role, with guidance from Kush and Shruti and Rebecca, check out what the talented team has put together for you!
Here is a little more about Nikolas, our Social Media Manager.
Greetings to the OpenStudy Community!
I am a California native who grew up in a Los Angeles suburb, then attended the University of California, Berkeley. I’ve always had a strong interest in language and composition and started taking English courses. I took an introductory programming course for fun, and found that I really enjoyed it. I started taking more programming classes at Berkeley, but quickly realized I wasn’t very passionate about coding. By now I had also begun taking several psychology courses and had been considering a move into that department, but wanted to incorporate the approach to problem solving that computer science offered. I found the Cognitive Science department and after taking a few introductory courses, declared it as my major. I was fascinated by its approach to understanding the brain and how humans navigate our world. What appealed to me most was that Cognitive Science draws from so many disciplines – Computer Science, Psychology, Linguistics, Neuroscience, Anthropology – and leverages all of their approaches to problem solving in a cohesive way.
To compliment my Cog Sci courses, I took a variety of music classes, earning myself a minor in the field. I filled a lot of my free time playing and performing with different groups, and music is still a huge passion of mine. I was a member of Berkeley’s Multimedia Orchestra and performed in the clubs first event. I worked for some time as a research assistant in the Affective Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Berkeley, studying human emotion in the brain using fMRI. Specifically, I was working on the role of salient emotional content in images and how it affects decision-making. After four awesome years, this past December marked the end of my undergraduate career at UC Berkeley. I made life long friendships, and learned more than I could have imagined inside and outside the classroom.
That’s a bit about the last four years of my life, and now I look to the future. Working with OpenStudy so far has been a great experience, and I look forward to what’s ahead. Providing free education assistance to anyone with an Internet connection is a noble cause, and navigating the OpenStudy community has already been an amazing experience. There exists an entire community of eager and honest students who are helping each other on the site, and having a lot of fun doing it. Spreading the OpenStudy message online has already brought me into contact with a multitude of educators and organizations. This is an exciting time for education, and I think that the connection many social media platforms provide can be leveraged to give educators an insight into what it is students need, and how they learn best. The classroom is an ever-evolving environment, and how technology is incorporated will be one of the most important aspects of future learning. If you want to chat, find me on twitter @openstudy. Send me your suggestions and feedback on OpenStudy, I’m listening.
Over 2500 schools are represented in the global OpenStudy community! Both students and educators come together to learn. So why a FacClub? I truly appreciated my years as a faculty at Emory University, especially the rich conversations about education with other faculty and administrators. Both students and faculty benefit from these conversations Many learning initiatives and programs were created in these water-cooler conversations! And so, the idea of a FacClub was born.
The OpenStudy FacClub looks to promote these conversations between the educators on our site. Uniquely, we host global teachers and educators across the spectrum of education, K-16 and beyond. Imagine the conversations and the exchange of ideas, and most importantly, the solutions for learning that could emerge.
We are looking for a few good folks to join the Club!
1. What will Club members do?
The OpenStudy FacClub will be a think tank in the emerging area of open social learning.
Members will in conversations and online gatherings, develop strategies to improve learning outcomes on our site, advise the OpenStudy team on educational issues and promote research efforts to understand learning on the site.
2. How much work is it?
We anticipate two one hour meetings in the beginning to set up the club, select a Chairperson, and develop an agenda. After the initial meetings, we expect monthly or quarterly meetings.
3. Who is eligible?
We invite educators at schools and colleges, administrators working in educational systems, and teachers in training, in graduate teacher training programs, currently employed or retired.
4. How do I apply?
The link to the application form is here. Please fill it out completely. We will need evidence of your status so we will need a school id to confirm that you are indeed an educator and a drivers license.
5. When will this get started?
We plan to launch the club by August 21st.
OpenStudiers are not only helping each other on the site, but have taken the initiative to create a newsletter to keep members of the community connected!
The OwlPost is by OpenStudiers, for OpenStudiers and well, about OpenStudiers! Need I say more?
The talented team led by Mathslover includes Shrutipande and Akashdeep, with some input from AshleyTrevino, and ParthKohli.
This year, we’re taking OpenStudy in a new direction; we are transforming from ‘studying social network’ to a true peer-learning MMO. First up in our arsenal, we’re introducing a new system to distinguish those who have excelled at helping their fellow OpenStudy peers. We want experts and excellent teachers to be recognized in the area of their expertise. We want to give distinguished OpenStudiers a variety of attractive options to show off both their braininess, work ethic, and commitment to their fellow students. We also want people in need of assistance to know who is the top users are for each field, ensuring that everyone can connect with a reputable source when they need serious study aid.
We hope you will enjoy these new changes,described more fully below by the game designer. As always, tell us what you think.
-Preetha Ram, CEO
First, We are turning our Study Groups into more complete environments. In a university you have all sorts of characters, ranging from the ‘cool’ professors who eat lunch with the students, the creative writing / poetry experts, the TAs who everyone loves more than the professor, the grad students who teach English 101, the sophomore math aficionado who helps seniors with their GMATs, and the students who are just struggling to get by. Each person adds some value to the ecosystem and each person often offers a specific area of style of help that will appeal to a specific type of student.
Often times, people will change their role and we see that every day in OpenStudy’s rooms. The student who desperately needed help will learn the material from a generous expert – and that same student will then become a teacher himself, helping 5 other people with similar issues. After a few months, that student who was asking all of the questions and needing help everyday will be the one dispensing help, often raking in 20 or 30 medals a day for his brilliant responses. We want this student to stand out and be able to broadcast to everyone that he excels as a peer helper. In the real world, your unique achievements make you stand out and make people gravitate towards you. Your reputation and appearance to others changes on a day to day basis as a result of what you have been doing. As OpenStudy evolves and becomes a peer-learning MMO, we will create the same environment. You will be able to have infinitely more control over how you market and portray yourself to others, while others will be able to tell a lot more information and make qualitative judgments about you from observing what you have chosen to do with these new options.
How do we plan on doing this, you may ask? With SmartCents and Titles!
When you answer questions inside of our Study Groups and receive a medal when a user feels you gave them a superb answer, you will now receive an equivalent number of SmartCents. 1 medal = 1 SmartCent. As you build up medals in a Study Group, you’ll be able to unlock several “Titles” and other goodies by trading in your SmartCents. You can then display your intellectual triumphs right by your name and on your profile. These titles, the first of which are up for grabs as we speak, are going to speak volumes about your expertise and achievements here on OpenStudy. Check them out!
People will be more inclined to listen to you and seek out your calculus help if you are “Owlfred Smith, Olympic Mathlete” than if you are just Owlfred Smith. But hold your horses; because these titles speak to your intelligence and character, you will have to prove yourself worthy first. You will need to qualify for these titles by gathering enough SmartCents to purchase the title, as well as enough medals in the relevant room. For example, to obtain a Biology title, you will have to have earned those medals in the Biology room.
We will offer three levels of titles. Let’s start with the Math room and take a look at the three titles in Math. The easiest is the green level, The Human Calculator. You can qualify for this title, if you have just 50 medals in Math. Once you have qualified, you buy the title with your SmartCents. Alternatively if you don’t want the title, you can hang onto your SmartCents and spend them elsewhere. When you unlock this title, 50 SmartCents will be subtracted from your account. The medals will stay with you. You will never lose your medals.
The next level, Olympic Mathlete, will require 500 medals in Math to qualify and 500 SmartCents to unlock. Last of all, the rarest acclaim, the Honorary Professor of Mathematics, is reserved for those who have racked up at least 3000 medals in that study group and 3000 SmartCents! We don’t expect many to achieve this exalted level of swag; this is for those who dream of unlimited e-respect and have the brainpower to back it up!
How do you get one of these for yourself? Go to your User Profile. You will now see a new Trophy Room icon. If you have earned medals in a StudyGroup, you will see the titles for that group there.
Click on Unlock Titles. You’ll see a list of Groups and titles, some of which you may be able to unlock! Go ahead and try it!
Your new titles will show up next to your name and when people visit your profile page, they will be able to see your Trophy Room, which will house all of your various distinctions.
And yes, some titles are hard to get, and some almost impossible. Show me what you got! This is, after all, only the beginning. New titles will be frequently added, meaning that if a room does not have titles released yet, your medals for that room will come in handy later.
Oh, and here’s a little secret. We are working on a way to allow top tier OpenStudy users to make money on the site (once again, we transforming from a studying social network to a full-blown MMO environment that reflects the real world) so I highly recommend the entrepreneurial OpenStudiers reading this to get a head start on accruing medals by answering questions and helping others!
——– by Nikhil Ram, Game Designer
About Nikhil. Nikhil is a hardened gamer, driving his parents to distraction since the age of 14. He claims to have aced his World History courses through Age of Empires and has applied strategies gleaned from World of Warcraft to college courses. He works at a Bay area games startup and is a free lance game designer. If you appreciate the wicked wit of the titles, you can tip your hat at this product of Emory English education.
If you have not had a chance to check your email, go right now and check out our newly redesigned newsletter. It is sitting in your email box right now. Yes, I know email is so – last century. But go check it for the newsletter.
The credit for the newsletter goes to the OpenStudy community that has been suggesting it for a while. And the credit for the design goes to Thomaster. He has also designed the OpenStudy Ambassador Certificates. Not only is he talented, he is patient and creative. He is truly amazing.
See those owls? The credit for those cute owls, goes to the OpenStudiers. A year ago, some of you, SnuggieLad, Swagg, Arripotta,, Dumbsearch, and ParthKohli, to name a few began creating these Owls. (The cool blue owl with shades – that is Parth’s creation.) And then so many OpenStudiers responded with enthusiasm, that we knew, that Owlfred was going to have buddies soon. So we put these Owls on the newsletter.
One more thing, you also wanted some trivia/contests and things like that. So our new newsletter has a trivia poll. Lets find out what OpenStudiers like to munch!
So if you have another good idea, or just want to suggest a topic for the next Totally Trivial Trivia, go post it on OpenStudy Feedback.
When the OpenStudy community speaks, we listen.
Mobile App helps OpenStudy connect students, professors, and learning enthusiasts on the go.
Palo Alto, CA — April 15, 2014 — OpenStudy, the world’s largest “studying” network on the Internet with over 10 million users worldwide and a motto of “Give Help. Get Help” today launched an iOS mobile app. Users can now access OpenStudy from their mobile phones and tablets to ask questions, get answers and help someone. “We know about 15% of our users prefer to use OpenStudy from their mobile devices,” CEO Preetha Ram stated. “Released just in time for the exam season, the OpenStudy iOS app will enable students and professors to offer and seek help from any location, at any time.”
With over 7 million page views a month, and registered users spending over 4 hours a day, OpenStudy boasts an extremely dedicated user base. The social network’s primary demographic, high school and college students, post thousands of questions a day, grouped into subjects such as “Chemistry”, “Computer Science”, and “English.” Speedy responses to questions are powered by students, professors, and other education enthusiasts lingering around to dole out wisdom and receive medals for their answers.
Often times, students in desperate need of help will find the explanation they need and then help other students out with similar questions. This student then becomes part of the everexpanding army of tutors, ready to step in where the students, textbook and teacher have failed. With these students now able to browse OpenStudy’s questions and engage in backandforth conversations around the clock on their iOS devices, we expect OpenStudy’s average response time to skyrocket.
OpenStudy is a Palo Alto startup funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and Learn Capital. In addition to providing students access to gradesaving answers, OpenStudy serves as a social community and safety net for students who either lack access to information or have become disengaged from their classes in school. OpenStudy’s design as both a MMO and a homework help site have created an environment that can succeed where schools fail.
“EducationFocused Startup OpenStudy is a platform for ‘massively multiplayer study groups’.” ~TechCrunch
-Written by Nikhil Ram, Long time OpenStudier, Writer, Gamification Expert, Social Media Consultant.
She’s confident! She thinks on her feet! And gives great presentations! Now an Ambassador on OpenStudy, here is Jamierox4ev3r‘s impromptu post on OpenStudy. We loved it! If you have a story to tell, email us at email@example.com.
” I remember the first time I joined OpenStudy. I didn’t understand a concept, and the answers I found on other sites didn’t make sense to me. I remember asking for help. A user walked me step by step through the problem AND made sure that I understood everything they said. This was when I began to develop a real interest in mathematics.
I then found I could help others, just as that user helped me. Now, I have learned how to become a better teacher and present myself more confidently. This has helped me both on and off the site. For example, earlier this month, I had a competitive violin audition and a huge academic presentation. The skills I learned on OpenStudy helped me to succeed in these situations.
I recall my audition so well! When performing for the judges, I just thought of myself giving a music presentation to a user. I imagined myself showing them that I knew what I was doing. The key, I learned, was to perform in a way that showed confidence. Sure enough, I found that I had been accepted to the AZ All-State orchestra (special thanks to @beccaboo333 for that congratulatory post!).
There was another stressful situation when I had to give a 10 minute presentation followed by a 15 minute question-answer session in front of my parents and teachers. It was a huge part of my grade, so I felt enormously pressured. Before, this situation would have been absolutely nerve-wracking. However, after helping so many people on OpenStudy on so many different subjects, I have become better at presenting confidently at school. Not only is it easier for me to analyze documents, I can also explain them clearly so that people will understand. My trick was to think of my teachers and peers as “OpenStudiers,” and I could be completely chill. I totally nailed my spoken lecture. It was the best presentation I have EVER given! The question-answer session was a breeze. Answering OpenStudy questions helped me to become better at thinking on my feet, a skill that is increasingly important to me.
Before OpenStudy, I worked for hours and hours to memorize a script. My presentation grades were blah! Average. During Q & A, I would think furiously before answering; thinking on my feet was a struggle. In my violin/piano auditions, I had very little confidence. “Sight-reading” (in which you see a piece of music for the first time and are expected to play it flawlessly) was practically impossible. Now, I have the confidence I need to explain concepts and perform to the best of my ability, Honestly, I believe the credit goes to OpenStudy and all the people that have helped me in the past.
For me, OpenStudy is all about the people. Whether you are the users who answer questions, ask questions, ask and answer questions, serve the community, enforce the rules, or contribute, I appreciate all of you. Many of you have become close friends of mine, and I’m always making more. Shoutout to @linda3, my new best friend forever! :3. To Emmy Y (+ao and -i ), congratulations, your improvement is totally visible, significant, and personally inspiring. Also, as for the moderators, I think of you as the community elders. Some are serious, some are funny, but all are wise; to me, this is important. They are great teachers, with lots of insight for the OpenStudy community. I appreciate all that they do for this site; they show incredible dedication, and it’s totally safe to say that all moderators are role models to me.
I must end now, duty calls! Thank you all to the people I have gotten to know (you know who you are), and I look forward to meeting even more of you. ”
-By Jamie, a high achieving student at Arizona School for Arts
-Edited by: OpenStudy Global Intern, MSMR
As you know we have been working on making the OpenStudy Ambassador program stronger for you. First we constituted an Ambassador Task Force: E.McCormick (Chair), Blues, Hartn, Thomaster, and Kayne! These wonderful OpenStudiers will also serve as the Ambassador Mentors for this cohort. New Ambassadors and Ambassador wannabes: you are welcome to reach out to them and discuss the program.
We asked you to fill out a form, tell us a little about yourselves and we looked at your history on OpenStudy. There were a lot of folks who applied and we decided to include 20 in this cohort. The others are welcome to talk to the TaskForce and try in the next round which will be in three months: June. (Read the previous blog)
Folks, we are delighted to announce the new cohort of OpenStudy Ambassadors! Drumroll!
Of these, we are sorry to note that dobby1, SmokeysTheName and TheJax are still not confirmed. Since they have not sent in their materials or responded to our emails, we have to conclude that we are not able to communicate with them or they have changed their minds.
The new As will be awarded sometime this weekend!
Join us in congratulating this fine team!
OpenStudy is delighted to offer a really smart puzzle to challenge really smart OpenStudiers! Take the iQube challenge!
Guest blog by Dr. Nicolas Mayoraz, creator of iQube puzzle.
By Nicolas Mayoraz
I have always been fascinated by puzzles of all kinds. I love that moment when “this seems impossible” transitions into “Wow! I think I got it”.
Very young, I remember cherishing a sliding tile game of 31 white and red tiles with golden engraved numbers locked in a 4 by 8 black frame. I was playing it so much that the plastic tiles were getting harder to move around, until my father had the great idea to grease the toy. It surely did a marvel to the gliding of the tiles, but to this day, I cannot dissociate the memory of my dear game with the smell of the drops of motor oil it had swallowed.
On the back of the frame was depicted a series of configurations to be reached. One of them was appropriately named “impossible”. This first mesmerized me, and I surely deployed some vain tenacity to prove it wrong, until I realized that actually half of all configurations are possible and the other half are impossible. I convinced myself of that fact by breaking open the game, and observed that I could put back all the tiles in any arbitrary order, until the last two tiles, the order of which will determine which half of the configurations are possible.
In 2006, I first got the idea of the iQube by playing mindlessly with poker dice on a table.What if we had a game like the tile game, but replacing the sliding tiles by rolling cubes?
While the Rubik’s cube is a great object that once in hands calls for being operated, I distinctly envisioned how the iQube would be ideal for an electronic device where its cubes would be spinned smoothly by a finger gliding on the surface of a touch sensitive display. Each cube would be numbered and have protuberant colored facets so that one can simultaneously see the colors of several facets.
Before embarking in the venture of programming it, I needed to convince myself that the puzzle had some potential of being interesting, which in my book is synonym of hard to crack. I’ll describe in a separate blog the different considerations and back of the envelope estimations I did to gather evidence of the potential of the game. I initially tried to get a sense of the intricacies of the puzzle by rolling dice on a table. But this approach did not go very far and I needed the real deal to play with in order to find out the true depth of its secrets.
At that time, I was teaching my teenager sons Hadrien and Calixte the basics of programming using flash and actionscript from Macromedia. That was a perfect medium to develop a prototype for the iQube. As I was eager to get a glimpse on the difficulty of the puzzle, my first draft was graphically minimal, primary colored cubes were jumping abruptly from one state to the next. However, this prototype was good enough to deliver a first finding about the iQube which considerably raised my enthusiasm about the game. He who has ever played with the Sliding Tiles knows that the puzzle can be constructed iteratively, row by row, tile by tile. The only tricky part is that the last two tiles of a row or a column have to be placed simultaneously. Once we figured out how to do that, the Sliding Tiles had no more secret. Given the similarity between the iQube and the Sliding Tiles, I was half fearing that this property would hold for the iQube. I finished coding the first draft in flash one night at 2 am and started playing with an instance of five numbered cubes on a two rows and three columns grid. Starting from a well organized configuration (as in the left illustration), and shuffling the pieces around, I then tried to recover the original organization.
I noticed that placing correctly the two cubes in the first column (cube 1 and cube 4, as in the right illustration), which was itself a non-trivial task, did not lead to a configuration where the other three cubes (2, 3, and 5), when confined in the last two columns, where a few movements away from being correctly placed as well. Woohoo! At that point I knew that the iQube was challenging.
In the next few months I improved the flash version of the game, adding different challenges, simulating a continuous motion of the cubes (done the hard way, before the advent of actionscript 3D). Hadrien eventually polished the game and gave it its presentlook-and-feel.
Along the way, I played with it and explored its various enigmas. I needed to find out whether there was a way to go from a given configuration, say all cubes in the same orientation and in order, to another given configuration, like all cubes in the opposite orientation and in the same order. At first, I was playing with 8 cubes in a 3×3 grid with the initial empty position in the center of the grid. My colleague Hai Dang Thai I had shown that game to found an elegant solution exploiting the symmetry of this configuration. This solution does not apply once the initial empty position is moved in a corner. For 8 cubes in a 3×3 grid, my first solution required several hundred moves, which I suspect is far from optimal. Soon, my original excitement fueled by the complexity of the puzzle got replaced by a concern that game might be actually too hard for being truly appealing. To convince myself of the contrary, I needed other persons to crack it. Both Hadrien and Calixte eventually did it, and Calixte even improved my own solution, resolving the Grand Master challenge in 246 moves.
The iQube Grand Master is challenging, but not enough to intimidate motivated teenagers, which puts it in the same league as the Rubik’s Cube.
In 2008, Philip Dhingra, an IOS app developer, wrote the first version of the iQube for the iPhone, using OpenGL for rendering the cubes in 3D. My wife Mita, fully aware of the longer lasting appeal of games over pure puzzles, insisted that a more casual mode of play be added to the challenges. Together we designed the scramble mode, where a series of quizzes are generated by shuffling few random moves from an organized configuration, the aim being to unscramble it in the same number of moves. This addition allowed for gentle progression in the intricacies of the iQube, and turned the single brain basher puzzle into a game with thousands of little brain teasers, proving hours of fun.
When my daughter Anjeli was 7 years old, she was well versed in many puzzle-like games such as Cut-the-Rope, Where-is-My-Water, and later Bad-Piggies. She suggested to add a reward system to the iQube Scramble, and pretty much designed the current points system, with points being accumulated with the resolution of each puzzle, the better the solution the more points, which points are then needed to unlock higher levels in the game.
In summary, the Genesis of the iQube puzzle has been very much our family enterprise over several years, and I hope that the fun and enjoyment it provided us while slowly shaping it into the app you find today on the AppStore or on our website will be transpire to you, the player, and you will find hours of gratification deciphering its many facets.