With $6 million raised since last year, Penn startup Lore has unveiled a new platform to continue its challenge to Blackboard.
Using a design that integrates features from Blackboard, Facebook’s timeline, LinkedIn’s profile and Google Calendar, Lore is ready for use by professors for the upcoming semester.
Formerly known as Coursekit, a rival to online classroom tool Blackboard, the company was started by three former Penn students in June 2010. Co-founders Joseph Cohen, Dan Getelman and Jim Grandpre dropped out in May 2011 to pursue the startup full-time.
Two weeks ago, Lore redesigned its interface “from the ground up” to make it more aesthetically pleasing, Cohen said. It features a live stream or news feed that allows students to see past discussions as well as a calendar to note deadlines and exam schedules. The timeline is structured from the start to the end of the course, so students can “like” and comment on posts on the class wall from week to week.
All members of the class are shown under the “People” tab, and each person is given a profile to write a brief biography and list their past and current courses, company affiliations and an “aspirational statement of what they dream to do,” Cohen said.
Lore also offers a private library for the class to collect and share notes, links, videos and books in one place. “They can upload anything … and Lore automatically finds cover art and previews,” Marketing and Operations Manager and former Penn student Hunter Horsely wrote in an email. The materials can be organized into collections called “Stacks,” making materials more easily accessible and enabling professors to “showcase extra materials in a way that will spark curiosity,” he said.
Additionally, professors are able to make their course open for “auditing,” which allows students to observe a course without being enrolled in it.
Lore was renamed from Coursekit last April to give its founders more flexibility for their ambitions. The business aims to create a social platform for learning, and “go beyond courses and beyond kit,” Cohen said. Though a descriptive brand name is good for the beginning, he said the strongest brands in the world do not have a name that “encompasses everything that it does.”
Cohen believes the name change is not an obstacle for the company because it already has the press and capital needed to move forward. He added that it was more worth it than not to undergo the transition.
“We can own the word, give it its own meaning and really shake it,” he said.
The platform is currently being used by professors at Penn and over 600 other schools including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Columbia universities and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cohen said it is just the beginning.
Rising College sophomore Alexis Thompson is excited to see Lore being used in more Penn classrooms. “Lore looks really cool, and I would definitely want to see our professors use it,” she said. However, she feels it could use work aesthetically. “They should make the colors bolder,” she said. “Everything looks so pastel.”
She added that the class discussion feature is nice because some students might not want to “go all the way to office hours to get their questions answered.” Students can get general questions answered, and office hours would not be as repetitive and crowded with the same questions being asked, she said.
“It also makes it easier to know who’s in your class and meet people,” she said. “Because not everyone’s on Facebook.”
“My number one passion in life is to learn,” Cohen said. “The best way to learn is from people, so let’s create a community of people that’s dedicated to learning.”
Lore is free for professors to use, and students currently not enrolled in a course can test drive the platform on Lore’s website.
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