Online Study Aids
eTextbooks and Electronic Study Aids
It's back to school time for college students, which also means the countdown to high stress has begun. But a raft of online study aids, from adaptive flash cards that change as you master the material to new ways of sharing notes with peers, may help relieve some anxiety and improve course grades.
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eTextbooks with a twist.Chegg.com is a leader in the cheap college textbooks market, especially in the rental segment. It also offers online study aids that build off its 2010 acquisition of Cramster.com with a Q&A platform that delivers expert answers to student customers within a couple of hours. Additionally, a Chegg app lets you access your etextbook from an iPad or computer and take notes, highlight, search the text, and review other students' highlights. For some courses Chegg also provides step-by-step solutions to textbook problems.
Kno.com sells and rents etextbooks that include online study aids and other learning resources. You can access the ebooks on an iPad, Galaxy Note 10.1, or through an Internet browser. While flipping through texts, you'll find links to videos, images, and interactive material to flesh out what you're reading. The Kno platform also automatically creates flash cards for important glossary terms and generates multiple- choice quizzes. If you want to collaborate with other students you can share notes and highlights or form a virtual study group.
Inkling.com lets you buy etextbooks, or chapters from etextbooks, for your iPad, iPhone, or computer. The etextbooks come with a search function, integrated video, image and audio files, and quizzes. You can highlight text and take notes while reading or you can follow other students to see their notes and highlights. If you don't understand something, highlight the section and ask a question to start a discussion with other students; stars can be awarded to the best answer, which then rises to the top.
Coursemart.com gives you access to an enormous library of etextbooks with online study aids and digital functionalities, such as highlighting, note taking, searching, and information sharing with classmates. You can access your etextbooks through an Android app, iOS app, Kindle Fire, and web browser; an online connection is necessary for all but the iPad and computer. CourseSmart offers free trials so you can get a feel for the online study aids platform before committing to a rental. The learning resources also include customized quizzes and exercises.
Adaptive Learning.Adaptive learning software to help you study is the new "in" thing in the universe of online study aids. As you learn, the material changes to reflect your acquired understanding. Brainscape, for example, sells sets of flash cards for test prep, language study, and general knowledge (you can create your own set, as well) that are accessed through a computer or a free iOS app. As you work through the deck of cards, you give answers that reveal how well you know the material. If you have no clue, that card appears more often; if you're dead certain of the answer, the card won't appear again for a while.
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McGraw-Hill supports LearnSmart, an online study aid that accompanies more than 100 of its college textbooks (both digital and print editions). LearnSmart costs $24.99 for a course and its marketing materials suggest it's a worthwhile investment; a study found that students at six institutions who used LearnSmart for an introductory course in anatomy and physiology boosted their performance by a full letter grade. Designed to function as a tutor, this online study aid presents questions that adjust according to your answers and then analyzes (and lets you know) the strengths and weaknesses in your understanding of the material. LearnSmart is accessible on your computer and through an app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
Additional Online Study Aids.If you want to view a digital presentation of the material you're seeing in class and in books, search for your course at iTunes University. This is an iPad app designed for professors who want to create online study aids for students.
Khan Academy offers free access to hundreds of explanatory videos on topics ranging from arithmetic fundamentals to linear algebra, animation, the electoral college, and the birth of stars. You can post a question relevant to the material, which elicits answers from other users. There are also some practice and coaching resources.
From all of us at Cheapism, have a successful school year.