When students get stuck on a homework assignment, they often turn to Facebook as an immediate distraction – a way to take a break. But what if Facebook could turn into a study tool that helped students move forward using the knowledge of their classmates? Enter Hoot.Me, a Facebook app that turns your social network into a cornucopia of expertise.

Based in Austin and backed by DreamIt Ventures, Startl, and sweat equity, Hoot.Me was founded in late 2010 by CTO Sid Upadhyay, CEO Michael Koetting, and Senior Developer Gaurav Sanghani. All three were students at the University of Texas when they recognized the need for such an application. When stuck on a homework assignment and browsing through their own social networks, they knew that the knowledge was out there among their peers, but there wasn’t a direct way to access it. Hoot.Me integrates into users’ Facebook account and allows students and teachers to collaborate through chat, video, screen sharing, and even doodling to make sure everyone understands the assignment.

This year at SXSW, Hoot.Me grew to be more than just a social app and introduced the addition of a tutoring service that is currently being rolled out to users. Now, users can pay a monthly fee to subscribe to their favorite tutors to post questions or view their existing content at any time of day. Koetting says Hoot.me seeks to become a market leader in the online tutoring world as much of that industry still remains offline.

Though Hoot.Me has garnered lots of buzz, there have been a few questions raised about its viability. Last year, Business Insider questioned the scalability of Hoot.Me because it’s “just an app” and wondered if it was just an easy way for students to cheat. Koetting told me via email,

“Everyone is good at something, so Hoot is giving experts a place where they can help students in need, which is education at scale because the students of today will become the experts of tomorrow. And yes, Hoot has made accessing this knowledge network as easy as clicking an app.

We are in the business of learning; we wouldn’t have built so many collaboration features if we were in the business of raw answer sharing. It is, however, possible for cheating to occur on Hoot just like it occurs in the classroom, but such cheaters must be comfortable with their nefariousness being publicly recorded and tied to their Facebook identity, which is likely why this has been a non-issue so far.”

While Hoot.Me is still in its infancy, its value and effectiveness still remains to be seen. However, any product that can turn homework from a boring slog into a socially interactive resource could be well on its way to finding much success.

Image Credit: Hoot.Me

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