As Engineering sophomores Sam Forman and Varun Jindal prepared to return to virtual classes last semester, they said they dreaded the thought of being physically isolated from their future classmates. As a result, the two came up with an idea to help with common problems students experience during online learning.
“We thought of this site — it was pretty simple, right?” Forman said. “All we had to do was match students in virtual classes, and we created the site in about a week and posted on our (class) Facebook group chat. It blew up more than we were expecting.”
The site is called StudyBuddies — a platform where students fill out a short form about which classes they are taking and their personal study habits. An algorithm matches students in the same class into small study groups. According to Forman, about 7,000 students signed up for StudyBuddies at the University of Michigan last semester and the number increased to almost 13,000 for the winter semester.
“That’s a tremendous amount of the (U-M) community that now has people to reach out to if they need it,” Forman said. “Not every single one of those people ended up reaching out and forming a necessarily deeper friendship, but every single person had someone to reach out to in a time of need.”
Jindal said more than 25% of all the StudyBuddies users who formed study groups met more than five times.
Engineering freshman Nicolette Kleinhoffer said she utilized StudyBuddies for her classes last semester and had a positive experience even though not every student she matched with was responsive. She said people in her Math 115 study group always responded quickly which was especially beneficial since synchronous class time was limited.
“For my math class, if we (my classmates) ran into issues, we had this group chat where we could say, ‘Hey, I keep getting this answer wrong, I think this part is wrong … what do you think I should try?’” Kleinhoffer said. “It was a place to ask for advice without having to go straight to a professor or GSI (Graduate Student Instructor).”
Kleinhoffer also said the StudyBuddies group chat was useful for catching up on assignments and notes in addition to being a collaborative space to help members understand concepts from their classes.
“If you missed class or something, you could get notes from the people who were in your classes,” Kleinhoffer said. “Or if you weren’t really clear on an assignment, you could ask them, and that helped me a lot too.”
Due to the success of StudyBuddies at the University this past semester, Forman and Jindal sought to expand the site to other colleges.
“We saw it doing really well at Michigan, we saw it was helping people,” Jindal said. “So then we were thinking, ‘Hey, this winter semester is going to be mostly virtual at pretty much every school in the nation. How do we bring this to another school?’ So we reached out to some contacts that we had: one at UChicago and one at UCLA. Because they’re on the quarter system, we knew that if we could launch at this perfect time — right before classes start, we could give them study groups.”
According to Forman, about one-third of undergraduate students at the University of Chicago and one-tenth at the University of California at Los Angeles signed up for StudyBuddies. While the site has a presence at these institutions, Forman and Jindal said they want to primarily focus on improving and expanding StudyBuddies at the University for the time being.
StudyBuddies will look a little different this semester compared to the fall semester. To make the connection between students more seamless, StudyBuddies will send students an email with a GroupMe link specific to the small group they matched with any particular class.
“Going forward for this semester, we did two things,” Jindal said. “One, we were more focused on the community. Two, we were also more focused on the actual connection itself. We are sending everyone a group chat link.”
This concentration on community and seamless connections led Forman and Jindal to create an offspring of StudyBuddies, called Find My Class GroupMe — a site where any student can find and join larger class-wide GroupMe chats.
“We’ve been thinking a lot about ‘community’ and how to create community in the classroom, and a lot of thought went into that this semester — trying to understand what actually does create community,” Jindal said. “Like, ‘Why did StudyBuddies work, and what we can do going forward?’ That’s been a challenge. And that’s why we ended up, for this semester, creating this larger community group chat — that’s what Find My Class GroupMe is for.”
Daily Staff Reporter Martha Lewand can be reached at email@example.com.
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