StudyBlue.com, a Web site devoted to providing study tools for college and high school students, has come up with a unique way of getting students to take good notes in class: paying them.
This year, the site started a rewards program that will offer cash to users in exchange for posting material online.
StudyBlue will offer $25 for every 25 files or flashcards provided by a student. Described on its homepage as an “online academic network,” the Web site will also pay $1 for every new user referred and 50 cents every time another student clicks on a user’s notes.
Payment through check or PayPal direct deposit will be available as soon as at least $25-worth of material is posted.
“We’re looking to give back to our active users,” said Ben Jedd, StudyBlue’s chief communications officer.
The Web site, which had previously hired “professional” note takers at about two dozen schools, expanded its pay program earlier this year.
Currently, more than 1,700 colleges, universities and high schools are included in the system, and tens of thousands of people have signed up.
“The Internet has gone unused in education,” Jedd said. “No generation knows the Internet better than current college students.”
StudyBlue requires a college or high school e-mail address. Students can browse through notes but are encouraged to sign up for their specific classes online. By listing what sections they are in, students can get instant access to any material already posted for a class.
The site offers notes and flashcards provided by students across the country along with the ability to connect with other people in users’ classes for online meetings and study sessions.
Jedd said the sharing notes feature has led to the creation of study organizations on many campuses.
“You’re connected with all the students in your class. It really adds efficiency,” he said. “We provide students with the tools to help them comfortably study with more efficiency.”
Sharing notes isn’t even the most popular of the site’s online tools. The flashcard function, designed to help before exams, is used the most.
StudyBlue not only makes memorization of terms easier, it reminds students what they need to study and how often. It also remembers which cards were missed the last time a user went through the pack.
Although notes and flashcards are provided by students, Jedd said there are high standards for everything that appears on StudyBlue.
“They’re really high quality, better than we could have wished. The coolest part is that we’re starting to see competition between students in their classes,” he said.
StudyBlue’s theory is that the best notes will get the most clicks. Thus, the best note takers will be paid the most, which will motivate students to provide accurate, comprehensive material for others.
The site’s staff examines incoming notes and flashcards to be sure there aren’t attempts to cheat the system.
“We’re monitoring every file that comes in the door,” Jedd said. “They have to be of high quality. They can’t be the professor’s notes. They have to be the student’s own work. It would be very difficult for someone to take advantage of our rewards program.”
Jedd said the Web site has gotten a positive reception from universities.
StudyBlue’s page includes a legal disclaimer, stating all work has to be the work of the user and not taken from class verbatim.
The site’s staff argues that in most cases, a student who misses class or needs help would go to a fellow student anyway. The idea is to simplify the process and make it easier to study and catch up on work.
“It’s really kind of obscene, the number of users who check notes for class,” Jedd said. “They are doing the work, but they want to compare other students’ notes to be sure they didn’t miss anything. It’s not for slacking off but for work.”
Gregory Weber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.