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The Future of Learning Has Arrived

Scholar is a web writing space for learners of the social media generation. With its focus on peer interaction and formative feedback, Scholar harnesses enthusiastic learner engagement. And with full multimedia features for writing in all subject areas (text with embedded image, video, audio and data set), it unleashes student creativity. Scholar brings writing instruction and student work into the twenty-first century.


“[T]he most impressive thing has been to see students get a hang of the process so easily. Of course the best is to see their positive responses to the feedback - they love getting feedback. The fact that it is anonymous is a great safety valve - it protects them and the reviewer and puts the focus on the work. I see the students take the feedback on board and are genuinely motivated to review their work. I also see that the work we do in explicitly communicating criteria for quality work through rubrics, learning intentions and success criteria is very powerful.”—Teacher



A collaborative research and development project between Common Ground and the College of Education at the University of Illinois, Scholar is built on a unique depth of research and thinking about ways to transform student learning. This is outlined in two foundational texts by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope: Literacies (Cambridge UP, 2012) and New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education, 2nd edition (Cambridge UP, 2012).

Our research also digs deeply into new technologies of digital text, knowledge ecologies and e-learning: Towards a Semantic Web (2011) and The Future of the Academic Journal, 2nd Edition (2014).

Scholar Research and Development Partners

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a long and proud tradition of inventing some of the most basic of today’s communication, learning, and knowledge-sharing technologies—including the world’s first e-learning system, computer-mediated messaging, the plasma screen and the graphic web-browser. The College of Education has also been at the frontier of developing new approaches to learning, from inventing the idea of special education to innovative approaches to math and literacy. We are privileged to be able to "stand on the shoulders of giants," to use a phrase Isaac Newton made famous.

For over a quarter of a century, Common Ground Publishing has built and supported scholarly knowledge communities, innovative in their media and their messages. Initially, Common Ground innovated software in order to provide a customized infrastructure for managing its knowledge communities' in-person conferences and publishing their journals and book series. From its beginning, the company also had an essential interest in education, from elementary to post-secondary: Its earliest knowledge community centered on Learning—others now include Ubiquitous Learning and Universities—and the company began its work in publishing with K-12 curriculum resource guides.

Scholar Research Foundation: Cope and Kalantzis

The Scholar project is based on several decades of research by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis. Bill Cope is a Research Professor in the Department of Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois and Mary Kalantzis is Dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois.

Scholar Field Test Contributors: Teachers and Students

The teachers and students who have field-tested Scholar have already provided the team with valuable feedback that has helped to dramatically improve its design. Results of the research and development work show that Scholar can contribute to transforming learning.

After using Scholar environment, 70% of teachers in the IES-funded “Assess-As-You-Go” project thought their students were comfortable using peer review tools. They reported that students took peer review seriously and enjoyed receiving feedback. Although many students were not experienced with peer review (only 51% felt very/extremely comfortable writing peer reviews for other students), after using Scholar, 43.8% of students found peer reviews to be very/extremely helpful.


Scholar’s transformative pedagogical research and cloud-computing technologies are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Education and Common Ground Publishing, which is located in the University of Illinois Research Park.

Scholar's research and development has been supported by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences across four grants: The Assess-as-You-Go Writing Assistant: A Student Work Environment that Brings Together Formative and Summative Assessment (R305A090394), Assessing Complex Performance: A Postdoctoral Training Program Researching Students Writing and Assessment in Digital Workspaces (R305B110008), SBIR (ED-IES-10-C-0018), and SBIR Learning Element (ED-IES-10-C-0021).

Scholar would also not have been possible without the contributions of many teachers and students, who have devoted their time and thought to improving learning for others.

Our Project Team

University of Illinois Faculty

  • Dr. Bill Cope - Principal Investigator, Research Professor in the College of Education, and President of Common Ground Publishing
  • Dr. Mary Kalantzis - Dean, College of Education
  • Dr. Sarah McCarthey - Professor in the College of Education
  • Dr. Hua Hua Chang - Professor in the College of Education
  • Dr. Roxanna Girju - Associate Professor in the Beckman Institute
  • Dr. Jennifer Greene - Professor in the College of Education
  • Dr. Joe Robinson - Assistant Professor in the College of Education

Common Ground Publishing Research and Development Team

  • Andrew Shirk - Director of Software
  • John Martirano - Senior Software Developer-Contractor
  • Matthew Hinton - Senior Software Developer
  • Jordan Schwartz - Software Developer
  • Walker Weyerhaeuser - Software Developer
  • Alex Kuhl - Software Developer
  • Patrick Mahoney - Software Developer
  • Phillip Zelnar - User Interface Designer
  • Manuele Sarfatti - User Interface Designer
  • Paul Ross - System Administrator
  • Anthony Beaird - System Administration Intern
  • Adrian Bettridge-Wiese - Director of Support Services
  • Dr. Kelly Searsmith - Research co-ordinator
  • Rita van Haren - Curriculum Resource Developer
  • Jason Berg - Education Account Executive

University of Illinois Research Team

  • Allison Kelly - Project Coordinator
  • Duane Searsmith - Visiting Research Programmer
  • Sonia Kline - Graduate Research Assistant
  • Becca Woodard - Graduate Research Assistant
  • Kirsten Letofsky - Graduate Assistant
  • David Lundgren - Graduate Research Assistant
  • Dr. Alecia Magnifico - Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Dr. Elizabeth Bagley - Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Dr. Shannon Carlin-Menter - Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Dr. Justin Olmanson - Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Jeehae Ahn - Graduate Research Assistant