Quora

Quora

Launched mid 2009 by former Facebook employees, Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, Quora is a vibrant online Q&A network. Based on the simple concept of getting answers to questions, the social network has a passionate community of users providing expert opinions on nearly every topic imaginable. Receiving a lot of media attention in its earlier days, the buzz has passed and the network has now matured into an extremely useful platform for schools and the classroom.

With so many competing sites, it is no secret that Q&A is a fairly over-saturated genre online. With sites such as Yahoo AnswersLinkedIn Answers and Answers.com, what is it that makes Quora the Q&A site of choice? And what ways can the growing Q&A network be used in learning?

Here are 4 reasons you should get involved in the network as well as a few ideas to get your school working with Quora.

 

Quora is…

1. A Place To Ask

Asking questions is what Quora is all about and you can use the site in a number of ways to do this. By typing your question into the Quora search box a list of previously asked questions is displayed in real-time. This lets you see very quickly if your question has already been answered. The majority of times, you will find that your answer is already on the network. If not, submitting your question is as easy as clicking “Add Question”.

One problem with Q&A sites is the quality of answers can often be poor. There is nothing to stop people posting advice and answers that are completely incorrect. Quora uses three methods to promote good quality answers on its network:

  • Voting – As a user of Quora you can up or down vote answers. This helps good answers float to the top and poor answers sink to the bottom.
  • Authentic Users – Users on Quora are encouraged to use their real identity. This promotes responsibility in answering questions and improves the overall quality.
  • Reputation – Reputation forms a strong purpose in the Quora community. You are able to see details of users who answer questions, letting you determine just how trustworthy their answer may be.

The site is a great resource for teachers and students looking for community curated answers on any topic. Quora is a particularly useful resource when looking for answers to questions that revolve around personal opinions.

 

2. A Place To Answer

Once you are comfortable with the Quora platform it is time to begin sharing your own knowledge. By answering questions on the network you can begin to establish yourself as a thought leader and authority on different topics. Just as the voting helps promote the best answers, it also determines what users provide the best information. So make sure to bear in mind your own reputation when answering questions on the network.

Once using Quora for a while, you will discover the competitive nature of the platform encourages thoughtful and thorough answers to questions. You will also find that it is very easy to get caught up in it yourself.

As well as using Quora for answering public questions, you can also look to set up Q&A within your own school or class. By using Quora to post your class Q&A you can use the voting facilities to create contests around best question, answer and highest number of up-votes. As well as this, you have a free platform that can be accessed from anywhere (including the companies own mobile apps).

 

3. A Place To Learn

The passionate and diverse community on Quora also lends itself to exploration. With user numbers reaching 450% growth in the past year (compete.com), the site has managed to attract and retain a genuine and interested audience. One reason for this is the companies early approach to entice discipline specific thought leaders and experts onto the network. The expertise and knowledge being shared from these influential few encouraged a huge number of smart, proactive early adopters to get involved.

The easiest way to get started exploring Q&A is by following “topics” on the site. Once you follow a certain topic, your Quora feed (similar in concept to a Facebook or Twitter feed) will begin to fill out with questions and answers related to your selected topics. This is a great way to find expert opinions and encourage your class to explore their own interests on the network.

 

4. A Place To Network

As well as following topics of interest, Quora also lets you follow users. This means that any questions or answers posted by certain indivuduals will also appear in your feed . Whether you want to use this to follow friends, colleagues or class members, it is another great way to connect and network with others online.

You can also consider following some of the thought leaders who post on issues that take your interest. Big names active on the network include actor/Tech investor Ashton Kutcher, business/entrepreneur guru Mark Cuban and Mayor of Palo Alto, CA Sid Espinosa. A number of other leaders such as Mark ZuckerbergStephen Fry and JJ Abrams are also part of the network, just not that active. One downside from an education perspective is that Quora has not (yet) attracted a large audience within education. There is certainly a strong community of individuals discussing education and sharing ideas, but the community will hopefully grow stronger over time.

 

If Quora interests you, or you know someone who might benefit from the service, do check out our upcoming course for teachers and educators – Introduction To Social Media In Education.

 

4 Comments

  1. As a secondary school teacher who uses Quora in the classroom, I worry about opening it up in certain ways to young people who, for the most part, have no vested interest in the site and seeing its growth and improvement. I would hate to see it be used in such a way that questions and answers are not taken seriously, as well as the inappropriate addition of questions and/or use of upvotes or downvotes.

    I don’t want to be cynical (but probably sort of am!); however, I believe it takes a very special group of motivated and well-behaved students, an extremely diligent and well-resprected teacher, and/or simply an older, post-seondary population to properly utilize the site as members.

    The way I use Quora is heavily moderated by myself. I mention, descirbe, show, and utilize the site as a general tool for learning, sometimes incorporating questions and answers into the classroom. (Keen students will follow-up and check it out on their own in their free time!) I have also printed out questions and answers to use in teaching critical thinking in the assessment of answers and arguments. I have had students write personal reactions and responses to things they have read.

    This is one teacher’s opinion. I respect Quora too much to see it used flippantly or as a game or tool that does not affect other people using the site more seriously. I am very interested to hear feedback from others, especially from those who have used it in the classroom.

    That said, I appreciate the post! Quora is a fantastic site (not without its issues, as with any) and I hope it can be used well and suitably for education as it has so much to offer.

    Janine

    NB: Another issue of free use is that some of the content is “adult” in nature and that has potential ramifications for the teacher if young people are exposed to certain topics and information without parental consent.

    1. Some really great insights Janine and it is clear you understand and have embraced the Quora community. I think you are quite right in being selective about students that are ready to use the platform responsibly as even a small amount of abuse can lead to a quality drop in the Q&A content (I have seen this first-hand).

      Really like your idea of printing out Quora pages as there is a lot to be learned on how to best ask and answer questions from the site. Thanks again for such thorough and well thought out comments and it is great to see recognition from Quora themselves on this too.

      Nick

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