Free websites use social networking tools to share content

Sophia users can create content using text, images, presentations, video, and audio, and then post and tag that content to the appropriate subject area. Packets are sorted by subject and age-appropriateness. Sophia also offers a “Q&A” tab for each packet, which lets users find out more information from the packet’s creator or other members of the Sophia community.

“Within Sophia, what we’ve tried to do is emulate what works on the social web. So on Sophia, when you find a packet author that you really like, with Twitter, you can follow that person. You can follow a particular packet, you can follow questions, so you’re always notified what’s going on—and that’s helping create more connections out there among different users,” Smithmier said.

By clicking on the ratings tab, users can see if experts have deemed the packet “academically sound”—noted by a green checkmark—and also can view its overall star rating.

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“There’s a five-star rating system on packets; that is what people would expect from any eCommerce site … and then there’s also an academic rating, so on the site some packets have a green checkmark next to them and others don’t,” explained Smithmier. “When you create a profile on Sophia, you can identify yourself as a subject matter expert. To be a subject matter expert you need to have one of two things—you need to either be a teacher in that field or you need to have a masters of higher education in that field.”

Sophia requires three academic experts to rank a packet as academically sound before it receives a green checkmark designation.

Educators can use these packets to supplement instruction, and they can create an invitation-only environment where members can share content and ideas, ask questions, and get answers within their own learning community.

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