Pennsylvania students demonstrate entrepreneurship, initiative

Few can argue that the prevalence of technology in today's academic institutions is changing the landscape of higher education. Although many schools are introducing learning management systems (LMSs), using custom content through digital textbooks and delivering classes via the internet, three students from the University of Pennsylvania have shown strong business acumen by developing their own course management software, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The project, pioneered by Joseph Cohen, Dan Getelman and Jim Grandpre, was developed due to the students' frustration with existing course management systems used by the university. Cohen, Getelman and Grandpre decided to leave their degree programs to develop the system, known as Coursekit, on a full-time basis. The trio managed to secure more than $1 million in venture capital funding, and the software is already receiving positive reviews from technological experts and academic leaders.

Cohen told the news source that current solutions on the market, such as Blackboard, have solid functionality, but that user-friendliness and easily navigable interfaces are still lacking from many of the course management systems used by colleges and universities.

"[Course management systems are] the classic example of a bloated and bad industry," Cohen told the news source. "We think it’s about time that it ends."

Mashable reports that Cohen believes that Blackboard's market dominance is part of the problem. As the system is designed for use by not only colleges but the military, government organizations and corporations, Cohen said that this lack of educational focus leaves the market open for a system designed primarily with students in mind.

Inspired by popular social networking website Facebook, Coursekit promises users the same functionality that many students will already be familiar with, presented in a simple, easy-to-use way. The system features functionality that enables students to host online discussions, create profiles, share grades and course content, and create shared calendars.

The primary interface of Coursekit is similar to that of Facebook's walls, with students able to manage their activities through a centralized dashboard. Coursekit also features a regularly updated news feed system, which provides students with up-to-date information on classes, scheduling changes, scholarship and the activity of other students.

Several major schools, including Stanford University, one of the top California colleges, and the University of Pennsylvania have begun testing the software to evaluate how students feel about the system.  


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