Autumn 2010 Student Tools: Where technology meets teaching

A new list of study tools show technology may soon mean that lecturers and students no longer need to be in the same room for lectures and study sessions.

McGraw-Hill Higher Education on GradeGuru.com, have devised their Top Ten Autumn 2010 Student Tools List, featuring Skype, Twitter and iPad application, Study Tracker.

Emily Sawtell, Senior Director of Student Innovations at McGraw-Hill, anticipates that Skype’s BETA group video chat will be big this semester.

Students and lecturers are starting to use Skype BETA to take part in classroom discussions and host virtual office hours.

GradeGuru’s citation manager comes fourth in the top ten list. The ‘time-saving’ bookmarklet and Firefox add-on helps students to collect and manage their citations in different referencing styles straight from their browser.

GradeGuru.com has members from 1,300 American colleges and 300 universities in the UK, and aims to encourage students to share their study tips and advice to enhance the learning of their fellow students.

But there are incentives involved. Students can receive points for information they post, which can then be cashed in for rewards, which earns them a status on the site.

Some lecturers are also finding it so beneficial to their students that they are offering credits to students who upload work notes, advice or tips.


Skype, Twitter and Google Docs all feature on the new top ten study tools list. Photo: Anneka James

However Sawtell is keen to point out that the online sharing of work notes does not replace traditional teaching methods:

“Peer support increases confidence and allows students to see other perspectives. It is not a substitute for interaction, or going to class, and the professor knows best,” she says.

Sawtell says that one of the main concerns from lecturers is the responsible usage of the site. But she is quick to point out that although the site encourages students to share their work, they warn against plagiarism.

Alison Moore, a lecturer at the University isn’t concerned about plagiarism, and has mixed feelings about such study tools:

“Things that help with research one can say are usually useful (as long as they are throwing up credible results).

“Things that are study skills tools I am a bit more wary of – they can often lead to time wasting because of the randomly linked nature of the online domain,” she says.

But Moore understands that some of the tools are inevitable progressions: “Some things seem to be a natural progression in communication – Twitter and Skype use is a logical progression from email, for instance.

“[Though] any tool, top ten or not, online or offline, is only useful in the hands of person who wants to use it well!” she adds.

Mary Pickford, a journalism student, says that despite being aware of Twitter and Skype, she wouldn’t have considered using them to enhance her studies:

“I normally just use them for social purposes, but I can see how it can be useful for stuff like group meetings.

“I’ve found that it’s really hard to get a large group of people together at the same time and place. Meeting online would be so much more convenient,” she says.

The twenty-one-year-old has used Google Docs in the past and believes that it makes student life a lot easier, but thinks that it still seems an underrated tool. She has found Mindmeister the most useful study tool for her:

“I’ve found it really helps me collect my thoughts together when I lay them out on a mind map so using it would be quite beneficial.

“Even better if you plan to do a group session online ’cause you can illustrate exactly what you mean with the mind map,” she says.

McGraw-Hill Higher Education’s Top Ten Autumn 2010 Student Tools List

Skype– traditionally a software application that allows users to make free voice calls to one another, professors and students are beginning to use its BETA group video-chat service to engage in classroom discussions and host virtual office hours

Google Docs– Google applications such as Google Documents, Google Scholar, Calendar and GMail have become a standard suite of tools for college students to collaborate – really hits the spot for group work

Twitter– no longer just a social network, students and academics alike are starting to leverage this network to crowd-source questions, gather research and increase classroom engagement levels

GradeGuru Citation Manager– a bookmarklet & FireFox Add-On that helps students collect and manage citations in APA, MLA and Harvard style straight from their browser – a real time saver for essays, papers and assignments

Academicearth – aims to bring together the best educational content in the world. Check it out for lecture videos from some of the world’s most prestigious Universities.

Study Tracker – the iPad app by GradeGuru that helps student track their performance – students can record their study time and marks per class to monitor their effort and outcomes

Mindmeister– online mind mapping and collaboration tool that helps with group projects and presentations

Study Guides & Strategies– Study tips on a variety of helpful subjects including time management and avoiding procrastination!

Jstor – describes itself as ‘one of the world’s most trusted sources for academic content’

Money Saving Expert – Impartial financial advice on getting through University including tips and forums and advice on bank accounts.

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