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A professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is basing twenty per cent of his students’s final mark on how much they can raise their Klout score over the course of a semester. Ryan Thornburg, the man behind one of UNC’s Social Media for Journalists classes, is a former editor for the Washington Post and Congressional Quarterly. In a piece he wrote for PBS, the former editor tries to preempt readers concerns over using a seemingly arbitary number to determine a significant portion of his student’s mark: “Boiling a semester’s worth of effort and accomplishment down into a single number has always seemed to me to have a certain false sense of precision to it,” he goes on to contend that, unlike other grading methods, his “is fair because it transforms the class from a workshop on button-pushing to an exercise in hypothesis testing, strategy and critical thinking.”
Klout is a online metric that gauges how engaging a person is on social networks like Facebook and Twitter – a person can raise their Klout score by gaining Likes, Retweets, and +1s. However, the metric is not without its critics, as the company behind Klout has yet to explain how their algorithm calculates a person’s score. Moreover, raising one’s Klout score is far from an exact science (as many of Thornburg’s students have learned).
In the hands of a lazy professor, such a class could result in a lot of anger over marks and not much learned, but in the hands of Thornburg, this appears to be an interesting experiment, especially when he says, “A high score is something I’d expect from a solidly average student. A B student will be able to pick apart and critique Klout’s system. And an A student? Someone who will one day build a better Klout.” [The Atlantic Wire]
Igor Bonifacic is a writer working for the Toronto Standard. You can follow him on twitter at @igorbonifacic.