Digital study guides gain in popularity

With smart phones and now tablet computers like the iPad, students have so much more information at their fingertips, including digital study guides that can make it easier to study, or to avoid real studying.

At this time of year, students are buying textbooks and looking for ways to avoid reading them.

Nothing is new about that. CliffsNotes guides, with their familiar yellow and black covers, have been in book bags since 1958.

What has changed is how many study guides, or cheat sheets, are available online and on mobile phones. Whether you know them as CliffsNotes, SparkNotes or Shmoop, these seemingly ubiquitous guides are now, in many cases, free.

“Two to three years ago, the wisdom was that students do research online, but not study online,” said Emily Sawtell, a founder of McGraw-Hill’s online collaborative study site called GradeGuru. “That has changed in the last 12 months.” Ms. Sawtell said she had tracked a significant increase in the search term “study guide” on Google.

All in all, this is a net plus, as access to information is always a good thing, though it can obviously be abused. The real challenge is to train younger students how to focus on a subject without distractions so real learning takes place.

Using Social Media to Your Advantage

The world of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, have become mainstays in pop culture. While Myspace had a craze and has since become an afterthought, sites like Twitter and Facebook have become the standard. They are doing wonders for businesses and celebrities alike, and they help you if you are willing to commit to the social media age.

Here’s an idea that businesses learned long ago – word of mouth means a lot to customers who don’t know where to go for products or services. You might buy clothes based on where a co-worker shops. You might find a good accountant to do your taxes based on where friends go to have their taxes done. The idea of getting your name out on a big social network means better sales and increased visibility, which is part of long term success.

So if you are a small business you should be committed to the social media craze. Start small by creating a facebook page and a Twitter account. From there you should start getting the word out to friends, family, and other small business owners you know. Ask them to forward your page around or ask their friends to become a fan of your business. Most people will do this without even giving it a second thought, but once they are a fan they are now subject to your free and direct advertising. They can be invited to events you create, and they can be the recipient of private messages that you send about the happenings of your business. Twitter is a little more involved and takes more commitment. It’s not quite as simple as playing online games and it requires constant attention but the upside of it could be really beneficial.

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