New app will give WCC students opportunity to study together virtually

With more and more students taking online classes, Washtenaw Community College has taken steps to add a missing ingredient to their education: Studying with their classmates.

Beginning in the Fall 2020 semester, students receiving online or virtual classroom instruction will be able to collaborate with fellow students on projects and other class assignments or just exchange class notes through a new app created by CircleIn.

“The current online or virtual classroom format, while successful, restricts students from being able to participate in college-organized and student-organized in-person study groups,” said Linda Blakey, Executive Vice President for Student and Academic Services, in a presentation to the WCC Board of Trustees in June.

Students, Blakey noted, learn from each other. Instructors also use project collaboration on class assignments — long viewed by educators as good training for how life in the workplace operates. Implementation is ongoing. Registered students will receive more information before the beginning of Fall 2020 classes on August 31.

CircleIn’s website describes the app as “remote studying. Students connect and brainstorm together just like they would in a coffee shop, but online, and they stay productive, even at a distance.”

Studying together remotely, Circlein claims, “makes students feel normal again, and part of a community.” The app, it says, provides relief from the ever-growing avalanche of “emails and in-boxes.”

The CircleIn app also allows WCC tutors to provide support to students individually and through study groups.

CircleIn is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Innovation Grant and has received additional funding from private sources, Blakey said. The app, she added, is used in more than 20 states and will be made available at more than 30 colleges and universities this fall.

The study app appears to have a solid early track record. Blakey said that colleges and universities that have used CircleIn have found that 66 percent of students experience an increase in productivity, an 80 percent increase in academic performance and 71 percent of students reporting that they would recommend CircleIn to their classmates.

“Creating a complete online college that mirrors a student’s experience and services on campus has been a critical component of our strategic plan,” said WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca.

“We converted on ground to online or virtual classes immediately after the COVID-19 emergency was declared back in March,” she added. “Our virtual classroom mode was very well received during the summer semester as it allows students to interact directly with their instructors and classmates. This new app will enable them to work with their classmates outside of the online instruction.”