Monday, June 1, 2009

Best Practices for Preparing Study Material Using Pictures.

I really enjoy things that are international and the symbols that represent them. This is why earlier I created a study group that I found to be challenging and fun at the same time, Flags of the World. This study group took me a while to create because I had to find the images of each flag and crop them to be the similar size. After doing a couple of flag questions it became apparent that it was necessary to be well prepared before adding any content at all. So I spent a long time just having all of the flags ready to be added. I put the flag of each country into folders broken down by each continent. I figured it was best to have them in their own continent's folder because when doing the questions I would probably have multiple choice questions where the options would all be from the same close geographical region. Thus all I had to do was look at the folder in order to have a good choice of incorrect options to choose from.

The most important thing I did with the pictures though is make them uniform. I cropped them into the same size for all flag pictures. If the flags are all the same size then the material looks a lot better and the exam taker focuses more on the flags and not thinking about why is this one so much bigger than that one.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We love getting Thank you Emails :)

Today we received an email that I thought I would share on our blog. I love getting messages from people who have appreciated using the Study Barn. It is from a member from Canada named Kai Kim.

Dear Study Barn.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I really needed help with my MCAT exam and due to my parents both being sick and me being a student I haven't been able to pay for study guides or practice classes. I did not think I would score well on my exam without a bit of help so I did a search and found you in Google. GOD bless you was I glad I did. I have used all of your practice exams many times and feel pretty confident about my chances.

I can't believe you are Free. What a deal. I am sure you must have 1000 people a day using your study guides. I am going to tell all of my friends about you (Actually I have already told most of them).

God Bless You,

Kai Kim


Well I don't have to tell you that I forwarded that email throughout the office and made everyone smile this morning. Thanks for the kind words Kai. We hope we made a difference.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Study Group Administration Features - Part 2

In the last entry I discussed the features of the left window of the study group administration page for the Study Barn. Today I will show you the main window and how you can use it to create really powerful study groups and exams.

In the right window (this can also be described as the main or largest window on the administer study group page) we are presented with multiple options. These options will not all be present if you are not the editor of the exam you are editing but I am going to write this as if you have created your own exam in this study group as it will cover all of the options you will be presented.

When you first log in you will notice that the green bar on the left side window will color the top option (which will be the title of your study group). In the main large window you will see an image with the word edit below it and then the title of the study group and its description. Should you wish to edit any of these simply click on the words / image and you can quickly make the changes there. You will also see a red or green box with the words online (green) or offline (red). This refers to if the study group is visible to the public or not. If you are still working on it you will probably want the study group offline (red).

Below this blue area is a green bar. Here you will see a couple options such as +New Exam Group, Edit Study Group Details, Reorder Exam Group, and Delete Study Group. Clicking on + New Exam Group will open up a window that gives you the option to add the name of a new exam group. An exam group is a grouping of likeminded exams. In other words if you are doing a study group in world geography an exam group name might be North America and Europe. Within one of these Exam groups would be Canada and the USA for North America and France and Germany for Europe. The next option is edit the study group details. Clicking on this will open up an orange / yellow window that lets you edit the information regarding this study group. The next choice is reorder exam group. Clicking on it opens up a yellow window with all of the exam groups listed. If you wish to change the order in which they are shown in your study group simply click on the exam group you want to move and drag it to its desired position. Once you are happy with the order / arrangement you can close this box clicking on the x in the top right side of the window or click the words Reorder Exam Group again. The fourth option is to delete the study group. Make sure this is what you want to do because it will delete and you will have to start fresh if you wish to recreate the study group.

On the left side window click on of the exam groups and notice that you are presented with multiple options. First of all you can change the exam name right in the blue window as well as take it offline or online just like the study group itself. In the green bar you have three options, +Add and exam, Reorder Exams, and Remove Exam Group. Select +Add an exam. A window will open up allowing you to author a new exam or import one that has already been created. Reorder exam is just like reorder exam group where you will be able to reorder the exams in the exam group. Remove exam group is pretty straight forward. If you decide to remove it will be lost to you and you will have to remove it again.

On the left side select one further down. This will be the exam level. Again in the blue window you can edit the exams details simply by clicking on the title of the description. You can also take it offline or online by clicking on the green / red icon on the right. You have up to five options here. You can +Add a question, Edit the Exam Details, Reorder the questions, control administration privileges of the exam, and remove the exam from the group. Clicking on +Add a question lets you create your own questions or import them from content that has already been created. Edit the exam details is pretty much just like it sounds, change any information about the selected exam. Reorder the questions gives you the option to drag and drop the desired order of the questions. Administrators allows you to give administration privileges to other parties and thus can do everything that you can on this exam. Remove the exam removes the exam from the exam group. It does not delete the exam though. Should you wish to re-add the exam you can do this by importing the exam once again.

The last level is the questions. You have two basic options here, you can either edit the question or remove the question from the exam. Clicking on edit the question link and you will be able to make any necessary changes to the content. Remove the question simply removes the question from the exam. If you wish to add it again you can do it via the +Add a question option one level up.

I hope you found this interesting. It is really easy to create your own content into the study barn. Following these simple explanations will allow you create a rich studying environment that the world can benefit from.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

The Study Barn´s Study Group Administration Features - Part 1

The Study Barn provides members with some feature rich and useful tools that make building and editing your study group very simple. When you go to the admin page you will see a header and two main windows (right and left sides). The left window shows tree structure of your study group. The right side hosts the window where you will perform the majority of the actions.
So let´s discuss the left side first. If you don’t have any exams added yet you will see the title of the study group highlighted in green and some options below. These options include add an exam and new exam group. An exam group is a grouping of exams. For example if you are creating a study group for your science class then you might want to break down the exam groups by topic such as Physics, Biology, etc. and then you can add those exams in their category. Adding a new exam will give you the option to create a new exam or import an exam from the study barn catalog into your study group. Below the exam area on the left side is two other categories titled Membership and Learning Tools and Resources. Membership allows you to control who can and cannot join your study group along with some other administration features. Learning Tools and Resources allows you to add additional features to your study group (for example a periodic table or a calculator).
If you study group already had exams and questions present then you can administer all levels of the study group by clicking on the corresponding section. If you want to open up the question level below the exam then click on the blue double arrows and you will be presented with the questions in the exam. If you are the administrator of that exam and those questions you will have the ability to edit the content in the right window of anything that you click on.
Next entry we will discuss the actions window on the right side of the administration page.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Creating a New Study Group

A study group is a group of exams. Not surprisingly an exam is a group of questions. Thus a study group is a bunch of questions put into topical exams that are focused in a specific discipline of study. Now for all that complicated language you will see that creating a full and rich study group can be a very easy exercise.

First, let´s create a study group. For simplicity we will build a study group focused on cats. So click on the new group link in the tools box on the study group page and let´s begin.

When making your study group try to come up with as exact a title as possible so others will know what they will be studying. For our example the title of our new study group will be cats.

Your description should cover the scope of the study group. How much do you want to cover? Describe what will be and will not be in the exam. Our description can be “This is a study group dedicated to learning about all types of cats and their habits.”

The audience tab is a good way for people to know how deep into the topic you are going to go. For example if you are aiming this exam at elementary students it is pretty straight forward that you aren´t going to cover the same topics as an exam aimed at graduate students which in our case might cover veterinarian biology and is out of scope for a younger audience. We will make our exam for elementary students and thus will select the “Elementary School” option.

The permanent link is the URL to find your study group. This is the address one must type into the browser to go to the group. It must be unique and thus cannot have already existed. In our case we will try (and for arguments sake) have the link http://studybarn.com/studygroups/cats.

The next option is if you want to share this study group with other members or not. Since we like to promote education and believe that if you take the time to create a study group, why not let anyone else learn from it. Thus we leave the yes option here by default. If you didn´t want to share and selected no then your study group wouldn´t be shown in the catalog. People can still join it if they type in the URL though (possibly from a lucky guess).

You also have an option to attach a password to your study group. If you do this then those who wish to study your group will have to know the password. If you don´t wish to share your exam I recommend adding a password to the group so if people do just type in the URL they will also have to use a password in order to join the group.

The last option is tags. Tags are words that describe your study group. You can have up to five of them. Tags can be used by other members when they wish to search for a study group to join.

Ok so click on the Create My Study Group button and you will be taken into the administration page where you can add or create content to put into your study group.We will cover this next step in the following blog entry.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Adding Questions to Your Exam

So you have created an exam and are now looking to build its content. Let´s start by clicking the Administer your exam link. This will take you to the exam administration page. You will see a tab on the top left frame of the main window that says “Add a Question.” Give it a click and you will be see that there are two ways to add questions to your exam:

1) Author a New Question

2) Add a Question

The Study Barn allows you to easily add your own question to your exam. Click on the Author a New Question link. There are two types of questions (1. Multiple Choice and 2. True or false) By default the form is set up to do a multiple choice question. If you want to do a true or false then click on the True of False link. Once you have decided which type of question you wish to create put the question into the question box. If you have chosen a multiple choice question you will see that you have 4 possible answers by default. If you would like to add more possible options go to the last possible answer box and click the Add another possible answer box link. You can create up to 8. If you wish to remove an option click on the remove link. Next select the correct answer pull down option that corresponds with the correct answer. The explanation box is not a necessity to fill in but it is very important. Most people that may use your question will benefit if you add a clear explanation as to why the answer is what it is. You will then get the option to share your question or not. I recommend that you allow all to use your question so everyone benefits but you can make it private by changing the default from yes to no. Tags are a good way for other people to find questions. Think of the main theme behind this questions and put them in the tags form. You can use up to five tags. Click on the review question button and see what you have just entered into the Study Barn. If you are happy with what you see click add the question if you want to make some changes click on the edit link. After the question has been added you are taken back to the form to create another question.

The quick way to add content to your exam is by adding another member's questions. You can do this by clicking on the Add a Question link. Here you will be able to search for questions. You can search using the title or description or by tags. Enter your search words and hit the search button. This will return a list of questions. Read the questions and if you feel they fit your exam click on the add link on the left of the search. This will attach the question to your exam. Continue adding until your exam is complete.

You can also do a combination of the two above forms of adding questions by adding your own questions then searching and adding other people's questions to your exam.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Best Way to Study Online Part 2 - Creating your own Exam

So you have an exam and need to study for. Good thing you are a member of the Study Barn www.studybarn.com. Go to www.studybarn.com/exams/ and create an exam. While title and description might not seem that important to you it is very important if you want to allow others to study your exam as well. Try to be as clear and precise as possible.

For example if you are studying for your history of the war of 1812 exam give it the title of “History of the War of 1812.”

Next think of the scope of the exam and use this as your description.

For example: This is an exam covering the War of 1812 including Political and military events that transpired during the war.

Next it is important to choose what audience this exam is for. This should be very simple as you only need to describe your level of school such as university or elementary school. This will help others who wish to study the exam. They will be able to decide if it goes into enough depth depending on their level of education. In other words a university student will probably be looking for more information into the war than a junior high school student.

Next if you wish to share the exam (and we think you should allow the world a chance to study the material you are providing) select yes to “share your exam.”

If you want to make your exam private so only you or your friends can use it you can add a password that you provide. This way you can make the exam public so your friends can find it but retain the exam’s privacy by adding a layer of security (password) to it.

Tags are important. They allow people to find your exam by topical words and not just the title. Again using our example of the war of 1812 you could put the following tags:

“America Britain 1812 War History”

Next Blog Entry will be Part 3, Adding Questions – so tune in soon

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Best Ways to Study Online Part 1

The Study Barn is a new concept in terms of studying. Before one had to study by reading from a textbook or notes from a class. With the help of the internet and powerful tools like the ones that the Study Barn provides studying can now be more effective and efficient. We can easily share studying material so you no longer have to create your own notes. Often someone has done them for you making the task of studying much easier. There are pitfalls of this form of study though. For example, how do you find content that you trust and material that is specific enough for you to study? These two questions are what we will be answering in this blog post.

First of all how does one find studying content that is worth studying?

This is a question of trust. You don´t want to spend time studying only to discover what you were working on wasn´t correct. Best way to get around this is to look at some of the trust metrix that the Study Barn provides. If you are studying someone else´s exam read his / her bio. How many exams have they made? Are there any study groups using these exams? What sort of comments have been made about this exam. And most importantly look at how many times this exam has been taken. All of these clues will suggest if this study material is up to snuff.

The second question is how do you find studying content that is applicable to you and your studying needs?

The Study Barn provides you with a search engine that you can use to look for study groups, exams, and questions that pertain to you. You can also create your own exam using other member´s content that you find using the search engine. When you do a search for an applicable tag / term you will be presented with many questions and a button on the left that says add. Read the question to see if it is useful to you and if it is good them simply click the add button and this question will be added into your exam.

If you want to be a power searcher there are advanced tools that allow you to be more specific in what you search for. For example look for questions that have a specific amount of “like” votes. This means how many people said “I like this question.”

So go out and create your own study content for the next test or exam that you face. The Study Barn makes it easy for you to EXCEL.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chris Hobbs At the Vancouver Massive Tech Show

Our very own Chris Hobbs will be a guest panelist at the Vancouver Massive Technology Show on April 1, 2009.

He will be speaking about the power of free online software. Since Study Barn provides software for free I am sure he will be a very good speaker.

We have been busy completing version 2.0 of the Study Barn system. It should be up by April 1. We are confident that all of our members will be shocked at the improvements made in the new version.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Study Barn Successfully Completes the Alpha Trial

The Study Barn is please to announce the successful completion of the alpha version of their new study system. They now enter into the public Beta testing phase. If you would like to become a beta tester for the Study Barn please register for a beta membership by clicking register.