Online study tools increase in popularity

By Johnny Jackson


Online study tools are an increasingly popular source for college students and professors alike.

"The days of working strictly from a single textbook are pretty much gone," said Lou Brackett, an assistant professor at Clayton State University. "I would say that the number of online courses is growing steadily at Clayton State University. Enrollment in online or hybrid classes is growing."

Some courses at Clayton State are 100 percent online, while others are hybrid courses that require an occasional classroom meeting. Class syllabi and course information are often posted online for the convenience of students.

Many faculty members add links to online articles, or scan articles, and make them available on the web, Brackett said. Streaming audio or video of lectures is becoming more popular, also. The streaming technology helps students who may miss a classroom lecture, or need to hear it again.

This summer, the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing company - which is not affiliated with Clayton State - is launching a web site to offer students several online study materials. For 99 cents, students can log onto the Internet and take a practice final exams in one of four college course areas: Introductory psychology, U.S. history, principles of economics, and general chemistry.

Harcourt's practice exam program is a pilot program called ACEtheExam.com.

The practice exams were developed by college textbook authors and are designed to mirror real exams given by professors across the United States, said Katie Rose Hope, vice president of marketing for Harcourt's College Division.

"Students visit publishers web sites most often to access our quizzing tools," Hope said. "The vast majority of students who visit our web sites do so to take advantage of our self-quizzing tools. We recognized this was a need that we could fill for all students, not just those using our textbooks in class."

Harcourt offers access to online study tools as a value-added service with the purchase of its textbooks, but ACEtheExam.com does not require users to own a text. Students can register now and immediately begin taking the practice exams.

Each self-scoring practice exam includes between 15 - 20 questions that cover key topics in a course of study and are drawn from a typical textbook.

"We intend to expand to other course areas, assuming students demonstrate interest in the ACEtheExam.com model," Hope said.

Students also use the web as a means to do research, according to Clayton State's Brackett. Clayton State uses Georgia Library Learning Online, or GALILEO, a web-based virtual library created through the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Through GALILEO, students can download and print articles from about 100 databases of periodicals, many of which are peer reviewed, Brackett said.

"Years ago, if you had to do research, you had to physically go to the library and hope they had what you needed," she said. "Now, you can find so much online that a trip to the library may not be necessary."

Some Clayton State teachers use asynchronous discussions to cover a topic, which means that students do not have to be online at the same time.

"It's kind of like a conversation that's carried out over several days. Students can login, read the discussion postings from their classmates and respond," Brackett said. "Online education can appeal to all kinds of learners - those who like to listen, those who like to read, those who like to write, and so on."

"I think online study is a growing field," Brackett said, "especially in light of rising gas prices, busy work schedules, and the fact that younger generations are so comfortable with technology. I think the use of online study tools will continue to grow by leaps and bounds."


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