Recognizing that many students learn best when working together on structured, self-directed projects, European researchers have created software that links student blogs and other social software tools into a virtual collaborative learning environment, reports Science Daily. The researchers of iCAMP (intercultural learning campus), a three-year project funded by the European Union, wanted to create software tools that would let university students and teachers work together on structured, self-directed learning projects no matter where they were or what kind of social-networking systems they were using. They believe the tools and learning approaches that iCAMP has pioneered have the potential to transform how higher-education institutions work. "It could change higher education completely," says Barbara Kieslinger of the Centre for Social Innovation in Vienna, Austria, and iCAMP project coordinator, "lead[ing] to a democratization of these institutions." Kieslinger and her colleagues at more than a dozen universities across Europe set out to close the gap between existing educational software tools–usually rigidly structured and teacher-controlled–and the free-wheeling, self-directed social software students use in their spare time, such as blogs, messaging, feeds, and other social-networking services. "We found a mismatch between what younger people were using in their leisure time, software that is easy to use and control by themselves, compared to centralized systems that are controlled by the organization," Kieslinger says. The problem blogs presented was interoperability. Blogs generated on different systems were often not compatible, so students could not conveniently manage joint blogs or track and contribute to each other’s blogs. To solve this problem, iCAMP developed FeedBack, a system that essentially lets blogs and bloggers communicate with each other easily and manage automatic feeds and updates smoothly…

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