Clusterflunk app allows students to share notes, get better grades


By Stefan Snijders, Contributor

The student world may be even more interconnected on campus soon, thanks to a new service created by former University of Iowa students.

ClusterFlunk is a new social platform and file-sharing mobile application. The application recently passed the $1 million mark in fundraising, which will allow the service to launch nationally. Funding has been provided by Lightbank, a major investment firm in the online and app-based services whose ventures include financial support for web design platform Flywheel and online-only menswear company Frank & Oak.

“We started looking, and it became glaringly obvious that there wasn’t anything that students were using through the university, or for students across the world, so that’s what we set out to do,” said A.J. Nelson, co-founder of ClusterFlunk, on how the idea for the service came into existence.

Nelson and his partner, Joe Dallago, began their quest to create the service after experiences in large lecture hall settings on the University of Iowa’s campus left them feeling both dissatisfied with their grades and lost in the crowd.

According to ClusterFlunk’s web site, the app allows students to connect with each other. Students can upload or download notes and other shareable files. Also, the app hosts discussion threads where students can pose questions they have not had answered or for which they need clarification, and discuss course subjects with students who are signed on to the platform from over 50 schools around the country and even worldwide.

The app was beta-tested on the University of Iowa campus. According to a recent press release, this beta testing involved over 15,000 of the school’s students’ participation, and 60 percent of those using the platform reported improved grades during the testing period. Additionally, the app encouraged students to collaborate in out-of-class assignments in some cases.

The application is currently only available through iOS for Apple’s iPhone, according to the company’s web site. Nelson says they initially started a mobile web site, “and it turned out that around 80 percent of our users were on iOS, so that was the first thing we decided to knock out.” However, Nelson predicts that, within the next few months, an Android version will be available.

Nelson said the success of the application has encouraged instructors to participate, despite some initial concerns about plagiarism and cheating.

Nelson said of instructor involvement, “It’s been a little tough to track because there’s no hierarchy on the site. Basically, no one knows who the professors are unless they name themselves.”

However, Nelson says it has been satisfying to see instructors have come around to support a tool that is so student-driven. He and Dallago hope the application will help students across the country.

“At the end of the day, that’s what everyone wants, isn’t it? To help the students learn,” Nelson said.