StudyHall.com Launch Interview with Co-Founder and CMO Ben Winter
This is an American University Social Media Club interview with StudyHall.com Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Ben Winter. StudyHall.com officially launched this week after beta testing with more than 300 students at five different universities including: Cornell, Harvard, Georgetown, Middlebury and Yale. You can read the article announcing their official launch on All Things Digital.
What is StudyHall.com?
StudyHall.com is a platform that allows college students to do everything they need to do for college online in one place. It allows users to share documents, study together and collaborate in real time using video chat. Ben described StudyHall.com as “the one central location for everything you need in college.”
Where did the inspiration for StudyHall.com come from?
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ross Blankenship worked in education after graduating law school and would constantly hear his students complain about the lack of online tools catered directly to the needs of college students.
According to Ben and Ross, one of the largest unsolved problems on the Internet and in education is the ability for students to collaborate with their peers online. Social media tools and StudyHall.com are working to increase student collaboration, whether it’s sharing notes and videochatting on StudyHall.com or using Twitter to extend classroom discussions. Education needs to innovate to include the tools and sites that students use everyday.
Ben Winter joined Ross about three months into the development process in order to help build the website. He too recognized that there was no real place for peer-to-peer collaboration amongst college students.
How are you getting the word out to students about StudyHall.com?
The StudyHall.com team plans to engage students using word of mouth, one-to-one interactions, and through social media channels. Once students start using the platform they are confident that they will share it with their friends and a friend’s endorsement speaks volumes about a platform.
StudyHall.com aims to be the academic one-stop-shop for students online. “We don’t want students to feel forced into anything, unlike institutional school email addresses chosen by schools or academic platforms chosen by professors, such as Blackboard”, Ben explains, “StudyHall.com wants students to choose to use the site.”
Who is using StudyHall.com?
Ben made it very clear that the platform is starting as a student’s only platform. They are focused on making StudyHall.com a platform when students can congregate and collaborate before they open it up to professors. The platform was beta tested by over 300 students at 5 universities: Cornell, Harvard, Georgetown, Middlebury and Yale. Ben explained, “once they have officially launched and opened the platform up to those universities they plan to launch at other schools, such as American.” They’ve been working hard to get ready for a successful launch and will continue to add new-features and open at more schools, as they continue to grow.
What sets StudyHall.com apart from other tools out there like Twitter, Facebook, Blackboard or other education platforms?
StudyHall.com aims to be the central academic website for college students. Currently, students have tons of tools they are using simultaneously like Dropbox, Microsoft Word, Facebook, G-Chat, Gmail, and Twitter. StudyHall.com wants to be the academic hub for all of students’ needs without the noise of the other sites.
StudyHall.com is a robust suite of tools for students. Its the academic center for students to do everything they need to do online, including video chat, instant messaging, email, notes/documents sharing and group forums.
Ben believes that Facebook had the opportunity to enter the educational space, but chose to focus on social interactions, “a few years back Facebook had the choice to stay as they are or pivot to education, they chose to remain social. StudyHall.com is only focused on academics, its a place where students can be open and honest with their peers.” Ben sees StudyHall.com as a place where students can share notes, work together, and react to classes/classwork.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for StudyHall.com?
Ben believes that the robust tools and features of StudyHall.com present both an opportunity and a challenge. Ben worries that students might be drawn to a single features like file storage and think of StudyHall.com as, “an academic Dropbox” when it offers so much more than that. When students talk about the site they will likely highlight one feature that is important to them, but the StudyHall.com team wants to make sure that students are aware of all of their tools and features. Ben thinks that the “clean, user-friendly interface and fun videos” will help highlight the different features on the site. The StudyHall.com team will continue to listen to its student users and continue to add features and adapt current features to meet the needs of their users.
Why did StudyHall.com target college students as opposed to younger audiences?
StudyHall.com decided to target college students with their platform because they considered college students “more tech-savvy” and having academics more focused on computers and the Internet. Ben believes that the computer, specifically the laptop is a central part of the college experience. Students rely on their computers for note-taking, writing papers, researching, and communicating with classmates. “In general, college students spend more time studying than high school students, and StudyHall.com can help make studying and collaborating easier.”
Additionally, Ben felt that a void existed in how college students, especially freshmen and sophomores, use their computers, “freshmen and sophomores are more focused on their social lives and Facebook has helped fill that social need. Sometimes we forget but college is about the academics. StudyHall.com helps fill the opening in the acadmic space online and helps students promote their academic lives, rather than their social lives.”
Ben also made the interesting point about the network size and interactions of high school students versus college students. “In college, students have social friends and academic friends, in high school students are more connected in their day-to-day lives and the academic and social groups are often the same. Those networks overlap a lot less in college.”
If you have any questions for Ben feel free to reach out to him and the StudyHall.com team on Twitter @mystudyhall.