QLINK: A DIY Social Network for Students

Our Mission Lab team has created an active new social network called QLINK (pronounced “clink”) at the Quest to Learn school. Designed to be an open forum for both students and faculty to share and learn together, the private network creates a safe space for students to practice digital citizenship.

QLINK has all of the standard features you might find in popular social services such as Facebook, but without the barrage of  targeted advertisements, questionable content and unknown users. The network has exploded in popularity, with (at last count) 239 users, a number of active forums and 104 user groups. Far from a dry piece of “educational software,” QLINK boasts a vibrant community  discussing everything from Minecraft to memes and school projects. In keeping with the Quest to Learn model, the network allows for both both formal and informal learning and by meets students where they are both inside and outside of school. Students are allowed to post anything, (as long as it accords with Q2L core values) so boundaries are tested, but still kept in check by active adult moderators from the Mission Lab staff.

Earlier iterations of a Quest to Learn social network did not generate nearly as much student interest, so this time around small potentially powerful seed groups from the student body were approached in an attempt to generate a more organic, viral spread throughout the student body. These active members were encouraged by the QLINK moderators and network activity blossomed from there. Daniel O’Keefe, a curriculum designer at Mission Lab who helped build QLINK, explains why this model of engagement works:

Teachers have been slowly hand-picked to for entering the site, following the same model as when we started with small student seed groups. Nobody was forced, only persuaded, that QLINK was fun, and filled with potential. This is very important, of course, just like in the classroom.

Students have been actively involved with running the site, by creating groups, FAQ’s and discussing best practices. QLINK was created using the Buddypress system (which is powered by WordPress) and run on Mission Lab’s servers so that maintenance and moderation can be handled in-house.

What does the future hold? O’Keefe envisions that students who have demonstrated a sufficient level of maturity and skill will be able to take over important functions in QLINK. A longer term goal is also to train users to become skilled Wordpress users and programmers, so they can create high school portfolios using the blogging platform.