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Training Made Fun with StudyMate

This article was contributed by Stephanie S. Atkins, Assistant Circulation Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign*

Libraries are under pressure to expand their hours of service, even while library budgets are in decline. Like many libraries in higher-education, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tries to reduce costs by relying on student employees to staff their service desks.

A downside of hiring students is that they will be employees for only a couple of years, at most. The considerable investment in training student employees and the constant turnover make it challenging to maintain service quality. Thus, libraries look for efficient and cost-effective ways to train and develop student employees to maximize the value of the investment.

The University of Illinois Library is achieving good success in providing cost-effective, consistent training of student employees using online training materials. Screen-capture software is used to create tutorials that simulate common transactions and tasks within the library’s online systems. This allows desk supervisors to train student employees on more complex transactions and procedures that require greater levels of one-on-one attention. The tutorials are followed by Flash-based games and activities that have been created with StudyMate, a Flash-based authoring tool by Respondus.

Supervisors create a variety of StudyMate games, both for individual learning or group instruction. Students work individually on the flash cards, multiple-choice quizzes, fill-in-the-blank, and crossword puzzles. StudyMate also has a game called “Challenge” that is similar to the Jeopardy! game show. With the Challenge game, students are placed in teams and compete with each other. This tests the students’ knowledge but also fosters the important skill of collaboration and team-work.

Fig. 1. An example of a quiz question in StudyMate.

A key advantage of StudyMate is that supervisors don’t need to have HTML or Flash programming skills to develop slick, professional-looking games. Within a short amount of time, a desk supervisor can create the content in StudyMate (or import it from MS Word) and then select the best game format(s) for students to learn the materials. The content created in StudyMate can be regular text or a mix of screen shots and text. StudyMate provides the choice of saving the files for use on a web page, or the activities can be published directly to a course management system, such as the Blackboard Learning System.

The learning games and activities provide the student employees with an interactive and fun way to test their retention and to reinforce the information they need to know. While the screenshot-based tutorials created with other applications are a foundation of the training process, the learning games allow student employees to synthesize the information, test their memory of key concepts and definitions, and to apply this knowledge to actual situations.

* Stephanie S. Atkins is Assistant Circulation Librarian at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Portions of this article were presented at the Northwest Missouri State University's Brick & Click Library Symposium ( ) on November 3, 2006. 

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Source: Respondus, Inc. (
Originally Published: Nov 13, 2006

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