Student’s web site offers studying tools

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Phil Collins

Final exams begin later this week and students may find themselves engaging in the age-old tradition of making flashcards. Some will make these flashcards with a set of notecards and a pen, but others will make them online. Dave Sargent, graduate student, co-founded studyblue.com while studying business at the University of Wisconsin.

“It’s crazy that we’re still (hand-making flashcards). It’s crazy. We have the Internet. It’s unbelievably powerful,” Sargent said. “Flashcards can get lost, they can blow away in the wind. They take hours to write and your hand hurts.”

Flashcards are the most popular tool on the site, Sargent said. Studyblue.com was originally intended to help study groups communicate, but the popularity of the flashcards have become the focus of the site.

“They’re really easy to make, you just log in and type in the questions and answers,” said Jessica Campion, sophomore in Media. She made flashcards for her Sociology 100 final exam and said that if they work as a study method she will continue to use the site after this semester.

Campion added that she wishes the site would allow users to stay logged in because her computer often kicks her off the Internet and it is a hassle to have to log in again every time.

Sargent co-founded the site with his friend Chris Klundt at the University of Wisconsin in 2006. He said they wanted to start an online business so they tried to think of something students need.

“The thing we came back to time and time again was how frustrated students were with the online learning tools that they were provided by the university,” he said.

Sargent and Klundt asked students at Wisconsin, Illinois and other universities about the software provided and said there was a resounding response of dissatisfaction.

The two students – Klundt a programmer and Sargent in charge of marketing – started to build the site, intending to finish it during a summer. It ended up taking a year to build.

At this point Sargent came to the University to start law school. However, he felt he had something worthwhile on his hands and was took year off of school to market the Web site full-time. He moved back to Madison, just after moving to Champaign. Within that first year, 25,000 students joined the site.

“It was succeeding very well, we knew we had a valid concept and I had to come back to law school or I would lose my scholarship and lose my spot,” Sargent said.

Now the site has more programmers and a larger team working on it. Sargent has class Mondays and Tuesdays, but he drives up to Madison to work Wednesday through Sunday.

Now that he is studying in Champaign, Sargent wants to make the University one of the site’s top networks. He said there are hundreds of University students registered and he is confident there will be thousands by the end of finals week.

Jan Wieczorek, sophomore in LAS, said making flashcards on the site helped him in his calculus class. He added that he thinks the notes section of the site could end up being the most useful.

Studyblue.com offers note-taking students compensation, for up to $100 per class, with 100 level classes paying the highest because they are generally larger classes. Sargent said they have about 15 classes of notes uploaded on the site and he wants to reach 100 classes.

“It’s funny, if you get 100 classes worth of notes, you’re hitting something like 60 percent of the student body,” he said.

However, the site does have some requirements for note-takers to ensure high quality notes. Note-takers must have a 3.0 GPA, take thorough notes, attend all class meetings and post notes within 24 hours of each class.

One of the goals of Studyblue.com is to help students study smarter. Sargent said the site uses an algorithm based on memory studies that found the best time to re-study something is as you are about to forget it. The algorithm estimates when the average student is likely to forget something they studied.

“If you tell us when your exam is and you upload your notes and create the flashcard decks, we have an algorithm that reminds you when to study your flashcards,” Sargent said.

For now the site reminds students via e-mail but Sargent said they are looking to make flashcards accessible on smart-phones in the future.

“At the end of the day, it’s a noble purpose, we think we’re helping education and we’re excited to see where it goes,” Sargent said.