Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2016

Brainly

Crowdsourced homework-help site can be chaotic

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • College & Career Prep

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
7-12
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Pros: Effective keyword search option, plus gamification can motivate some students.

Cons: Confusing and often incorrect answers; only one or two answers allowed; not enough oversight.

Bottom Line: Peer learning can be a great thing, but here it amounts to quick fixes rather than mentorship.

Teachers may consider suggesting this site as an option for students to get homework help, but teachers will want to first peruse the site themselves to see if it's a valuable enough service for their students' needs. Keep in mind, though, that even when the site works correctly, it merely helps students get a quick answer to their homework question, rather than helping them learn the concept.

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Brainly is a crowdsourced Q&A site for students to give and receive homework help, kind of like Yahoo Answers for education. Students post their questions within a subject or grade level, and other students answer them. The site encourages students to post answers by awarding them points, based on the number of points offered by the person who posted the question. Students can also earn points by logging into the site each day, confirming their email address, giving useful (Brainliest) answers, choosing a Brainliest answer for their question, getting on the leaderboards, and taking other actions on the site. Students can also search the site by grade level, subject, or keyword to see if their question has already been asked and follow new questions so they will know when it 's been answered. Answers can include attachments but no links and can't be copied from another source. If there are community-related problems, students can talk to one of the moderators or a community manager.

Each question can only be answered once or twice before it's closed. Once the first answer is posted, other students have only two hours to post a second answer. This feature doesn't promote thoughtful or detailed answers, and it precludes other students from trying to be helpful later on when the original answers are incorrect or unhelpful. Moderators are supposed to keep up with all the site's content, but the point system encourages students to give as many answers as they can, sometimes clogging up the system with less-than-helpful content.

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In an ideal world, Brainly would be very good for learning. Students teaching each other can be a fantastic way to learn. But in practice, many students post homework questions just to get a quick answer, helping them finish their homework sooner. Answers, even if they're correct, offer little or no elaboration on the topic, and there is no guarantee that the answers students receive will be correct. There are moderators who work to keep the site safe and of high quality, but they don't address every incorrect answer in a timely manner, and what is shown on the site, especially at the top of the feed, is often not useful. Students are awarded additional points if their answer is chosen as the Brainliest, but that distinction is awarded by the person asking the question, not an expert, so a user's point total is no indication of how accurate their answers are.

Since the point of the site is to get quick answers to homework problems, unanswered questions are deleted in 14 days. The site claims that 80 percent of users get an answer to their question in less than 10 minutes, but speed is no guarantee of quality. Plus, by being restricted to one or two answers per question, there is less chance that an answer given will be correct. When you have a community help board, such as this one, sometimes allowing a large number of answers is the only way to increase the odds of one (or more) of them being helpful.

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Overall Rating
2

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
2

Its organized in a familiar, attractive way, and the points system can be an incentive to keep students active there, but strange questions and meaningless answers may discourage many students.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Peer tutoring can be an ideal way to learn, but this site merely helps students get quick answers to their homework questions without digging deep.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

The site provides enough guidance for students to learn how to use it, and moderators are available for help, but it may be very difficult for students to determine which answers are helpful or correct.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jenny Bristol Homeschooling parent

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