The makeup of after-school study groups is changing as students increasingly turn to the Internet to study with people from all around the world.
"Traditionally, you've had to be in the same place as your study group," says Roy Gilbert, CEO of Grockit.com, an online social studying network with users in nearly 170 countries. "With Grockit, a student from Texas can study with a student from India."
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Online studying sites with different focuses have been popping up over the past few years. For those who prefer studying on their own, there's Quizlet.com, which offers more than 7 million sets of virtual flash cards covering everything from basic Spanish and the SAT to quantum physics and early European history. Other sites such as Blackboard and Edmodo.com allow teachers and students to interact with one another virtually and turn in assignments.
Openstudy.com says its site makes "the world your study group." Students can join an online chat room where they can ask and answer questions on a variety of subjects, including physics, biology, history, and math.
The free service includes a drawing board where other students can walk each other through problems. It gives out medals and achievements for students who answer questions in certain subjects, and users can "level up" as they help others.
But with more than a million users since the site went live in 2007, Grockit appears to be the most popular. Farb Nivi, a veteran of test prep companies Kaplan and Princeton Review, says he designed the site to be similar to the classes he taught for those companies.
"I taught my GMAT [courses] mostly through social learning. The students are helping each other out, and the teacher is mostly there to facilitate," he says. "A few years ago, we had the emergence of Facebook and MySpace, but no one was really applying social [networking] to education. I realized I was already doing that in my classroom."
Nivi started with what he knew—the GMAT. He soon expanded the site to offer test preparation for high school students, and now offers help for students prepping for the SAT, ACT, and AP exams, as well as offering separate sections for students in grades 7 to 12.
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About 40 percent of the Grockit's interactions are between students who live in different countries, Nivi says. The site's free basic service includes practice problems for a variety of tests, while the $19.99 per month premium service includes practice test performance tracking, a score predictor, and personalized video lessons with professional tutors. The company recently integrated Facebook into the site so students can virtually work with classmates and friends.
Gilbert, the company's CEO, says that students have always studied better in groups. An internal study conducted by Grockit earlier this year found that students who worked in a group spent three times as long studying as students who studied solo did, and covered twice as much material.
"You're accountable to your group to help them solve problems and move on to the next," Gilbert says. "That's where the engagement comes."