Students ask, answer questions on redesigned CollegeWikis Web site

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
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ASU students have a new school-specific Web site that allows Wikipedia-style collaboration on the local level.

Www.CollegeWikis.com, a New York-based Internet company, recently launched a redesigned Web site that gives students an open forum to share information with peers at their school.

The new design strays from a format that resembled Wikipedia and now also allows users to view information from other schools on the site.

“I knew how much students know and love Wikipedia,” CollegeWikis founder and CEO Joe DiPasquale said. But he wanted to offer students something new — information that applies to them specifically.

The site is open to about 1,000 schools in the U.S., and each has its own group. Within each school group, students can ask questions, post discussion topics and create subgroups for student organizations.

The idea behind the site is similar to Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers, which allow users to post or request information as a community. Like Wikipedia, any user can post and edit content. Like Yahoo! Answers, users can ask and respond to questions.

Dipasquale said the Web site is ideal for large schools like ASU because it allows for a larger community of contributors.

In the past, ASU students have posted questions asking which classes provide an easy A or which bars in the area are the best. Other students chimed in, offering their opinions for easy classes, good professors and fun restaurants.

DiPasquale, who graduated from Stanford University in 2006, said he wanted to make a functional information base for student communities because the online community he had in college made information difficult to gather.

He said information in college e-mail lists is usually lost as soon as it is sent out because of its unorganized format. To combat this, CollegeWikis saves information within each school group to make it more readily available.

Matt Houser, a representative of CollegeWikis, said the Web site is more focused than larger sites because it is only open to students.
“The thing that’s cool about this is that it’s college-only,” Houser said.

CollegeWikis requires the student e-mail account of all people wishing to participate in their school’s group.

Houser said the site is a useful tool because users can relate through their common environment.

“Whom would you trust more than people in your own situation?” he said.
Civil engineering junior Vincent Rollins, who joined CollegeWikis in early 2008, said in an e-mail that the redesigned site has both positive and negative aspects.

“It seems more user-friendly, but at the same time, it’s kind of lost its Wikipedia-like sense of familiarity,” he said.

The ASU group on CollegeWikis currently has almost 300 registered students. DiPasquale said he expects the amount of content and number of users to grow because of the redesign.

“It’s all about information,” DiPasquale said. “We’re not a place where you would post a profile or e-mail friends or add applications. We’re focused on getting you answers to your questions.”

Reach the reporter at adam.sneed@asu.edu.