All those studying night owls finally have a distraction-free way to use the site to get help with homework and projects.
Facebook started out as a way for college students to connect with each other, but do they really want to use the service to help them study? Not yet, at least. The average student stuck on a calculus problem at 2 a.m. probably isn't going to turn to Facebook, because if she does, she's likely to get sucked into a sea of status updates. But a free new app, Hoot.Me—named for all those studying night owls—promises to make Facebook a distraction-free place to get help with homework and work on projects.
Upon logging on to the app, Hoot allows an individual student to see what users at her school are working on. If everyone else on campus is asleep, a user can search for study sessions happening at other schools, even if she's not Facebook friends with any of those students.
When a student joins a session, she can get help through group video conferencing that's similar to Google+'s "hangout" feature, or use what Hoot calls "smart chat", which automatically reformats typed science formulas and math equations so that they look the way they should. The app also has a "my history" feature, so if a student needs to review the same concept later, she can access past study sessions.
Teachers can also use the app for virtual office hours, and because study sessions can be made private, they can invite small groups working on project to give a virtual progress updates. Given that Facebook has 750 million users, many of whom are students, the possibilities for academic connections are pretty endless. If enough students start using the app, it might transform Facebook from study hindrance to study aid.