Review by Erin Brereton, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2013

Quora

Crowd-sourced Q&A site is fun to browse but mixes fact and fiction

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Teachers say (2 Reviews)
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Grades
9-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Users can ask and discuss questions about a large number of topics.

Cons: Because users submit the site responses, the info can be unreliable.

Bottom Line: The user-submitted Q&A site offers some fun-to-read content but also includes questionable conversations that don't always focus on facts.

There isn't a specific administrative option to help teachers use the site as a learning tool. However, educators may be able to use the site questions and answers as examples to help stress several communication and writing skills, including sentence structure, brevity, addressing a specific audience, and creating an argument. Those examples, along with the brief guidance Quora provides on well-written question and response qualifications, could potentially be used to show teens how to construct clear, concise questions and answers.

Though Quora covers an array of topics, it’s fairly unlikely that teachers will want to set kids loose to use the site as an informational source. Users have shared tips on some potentially helpful topics such as utilizing the site for career help, but because users are Quora’s main source of information, the guidance is often hit-or-miss. Teachers can sign up to receive notifications when students add or respond to questions, so they could, in theory, create group learning activities that involve monitoring other users' responses and overall comprehension of questions students post. Users can also easily search to find information about a large number of topics.

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Quora is a community-based Q&A site. Users post questions on essentially any topic they're curious about, and other users provide the response. During registration, users are asked to identify five areas of interest to follow on a regular basis. Choices include a variety of subjects: everything from business to dating, as well as a number of school subjects like history, literature, and science. Registered users can post or respond to questions, post reviews, or add a blog about a topic. They can also follow other users and send them messages through the site.

Once registered, users can post and respond to questions and reviews, edit questions that have been posted by other users, or write a blog about a topic. Questions can be posted anonymously or with your username. Users are encouraged to upvote (similar to Facebook’s “like” button) responses they feel are well-written and helpful, and can also send authors a virtual thank-you.

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Teens can get basic reading practice and some research experience. Observing ongoing debates about the validity of some posts will hopefully help them understand the difference between substantiated and unsubstantiated facts. The site's brief tips on writing questions and responses can also help teens understand other language principles, including sentence structure and brevity. Being able to communicate questions and receive multiple responses also encourages collaborative group learning, self-expression, and intellectual curiosity.

However, educators will likely have some concerns about teens accessing some of the site's less kid-friendly content. Users post questions on a variety of topics, ranging from crime to sexual acts, and many responses are clearly intended for adults. Plus, there's no guarantee that kids will receive plentiful, or even accurate, responses to their questions. The system relies on users to provide answers but doesn't authenticate or confirm their level of expertise on the topic. Quora lists entrepreneurs, CEOs, journalists, and other professionals -- reportedly from reputable sources like the BBC and AOL -- as users who have contributed to the site. But there's really no way to tell if all profiles are legit. Users also essentially rank comments by designating ones they like with an upvote, which doesn't necessarily indicate if the response was thorough or needed more work.

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Overall Rating
2

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Teens will love being able to find questions and answers about a huge variety of topics. Parents and teachers may not be as thrilled to have them viewing the site's racier, unscreened posts.

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

This Q&A site covers a lot of ground, but because users provide both the questions and responses, the quality of info varies. Kids may have a hard time judging fact from fiction, and not all topics on the site have academic value.

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

Users can track site activity and get notifications when people respond to questions. But some of the basic site instruction comes from people responding to questions about using Quora, so help isn't always easy to understand or find.


Teacher Reviews

2
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Featured review by
Michelle N. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Lebanon Senior High School
Lebanon, PA
2
First-hand answers to life's persistent questions -- some supervision required

Overall, Quora is a resource that can provide students with background and insight on a variety of subjects from a variety of contributors. Left to their own devices, students may become overwhelmed and find themselves off-task as they peruse the seemingly endless database of questions and answers. As far as contributors go, it is mixed bag -- the most credible answers often populate at the top of the list, but I would caution student users as the purpose of Quora is to provide real-life answers, and as such, may include content not suitable for all students. I definitely like the idea of Quora, but find it's adult-centered nature challenging to use in class without having already chosen the content for my students.

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