Comprehensiveness rating: 1 read less
The book covers topics superficially, without any depth or reference to theory.
The book selectively chooses just a few random strategies to include.
A lot of the content is incorporated just through links to external websites. I would be very worried that these website resources would change or move and no longer be accessible.
The author misses many countless and effective strategies for improving learning.
Accuracy rating: 1
The author promotes folk theories and ideas that have been proven false through systematic empirical research. Additional ideas are presented so simplistically that they ultimately end up being inaccurate. The author further mixes together theoretically different ideas together in a mish-mash of inaccuracies. In other cases, the author plays fast and loose with facts, even making up her own. For example, the author states a figure (95% of people) only to later state that this value is just a "hunch" rather than empirically true.
I feel like about half of the author's statements are completely made up from her own specific intuitions, rather than research and theory.
The author does not cite her sources, so it is impossible to judge the credibility of their statements.
The author links to external websites which can have changing levels of accuracy and evolving content (like wikipedia).
Relevance/Longevity rating: 2
I don't think this has longevity, as much of the content is just linked to on external websites, which would be very hard to update (or may be moved or changed without the author knowing).
Clarity rating: 3
The author uses complex sentences that I had a hard time parsing. The author uses acronyms without explicitly defining them.
The author tries to present material (too) simplistically, so most jargon and technical terminology is explicitly avoided.
Consistency rating: 5
I think the text is consistent.
Modularity rating: 4
The author presents six different units, which could be studied independently. Further, the first three units are designed to have an exam after them, so they are complete without the second six units.
There is some slight overly self-referential aspects to the book. For example, students are required to "annotate" throughout the book, but what that entails is only defined early in the book.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 2
I was not sure why the book was organized in the way it was. It seemed haphazard how the text moved from one idea to the next.
Interface rating: 3
Terms are defined at the start of each unit, but the definitions run together and are hard to parse. The book references links which do not exist in this interface. Other times, I would stumble upon a link to a website, but these links were not marked. Given the prominence that web links play in this text, I think they need to be marked more clearly (or the external resources could be included in this text too).
On page 81, it says : "Click on the thumbnail for a full-size view" multiple times, but there are no thumbnails.
Grammatical Errors rating: 2
The book is written as one might spontaneously talk. Grammar is not a top priority of this friendly style of writing. Words are used improperly and punctuation is sometimes used improperly.
Cultural Relevance rating: 3
The text references cell phones and social media addictions. The text is aimed specifically at community college students and addresses the needs and culture of that specific group. The text does include a section on older adults' learning, which is one explicit reference to diverse students.
This book was clearly designed for a specific course at a specific institution (it references the course and the specific college repeatedly). Many references are made to resources that are not included within the book and are hard to find on their own.
The text seems to be one specific person's ideas about how to best learn, rather than what research suggests are the best ways. I would never recommend this text to anyone.
Comprehensiveness rating: 4 read less
The book is an effective primer for its intended audience without becoming too overwhelming. It assists learners hoping to develop critical skills for student success (e.g., learning styles, time management, note taking, test taking, reading comprehension, memory). That being said, the book seems to rely on links to a lot of outside sources to truly explore those issues more in-depth. Also, it is worth noting that this book is more well suited to preparing students for a more structured college environment with more teacher-directed rather than learner-directed activities such as reading textbooks, taking multiple choice tests, etc. as opposed to more open-ended learning activities.
Each chapter orients the reader to the topic with an introduction, several examples, and exercises that allow learners to apply what they've learned from the chapter and supplemental resources. Although the book includes a table of contents, it does not provide an index which might be helpful to the learner. Even so, the book does provide definitions of words throughout the text to assist with reading comprehension.
Accuracy rating: 3
The content is accurate and draws from a variety of disciplines including psychology, development, teaching and learning although I cannot find a complete list of sources. There are, for the most part, in-text citations although a few are missing. There was only one time where I perceived bias but it did not negatively impact how I interpreted the information and I don't think it will negatively affect students. There were a handful of spelling errors throughout the book but they did not affect comprehension.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 4
There are many elements of this book that will continue to be critical skills and be relevant over time such as time management, note taking, reading comprehension, and learning styles. Regardless of the context, forum or manner in which learners are engaged in the learning process, those topics will arguably remain important increasing the longevity of this book. Even so, there are areas that could be included that might enhance the book's relevance such as acknowledging the increasing importance of self-directed learning in less structured learning environments such as flipped or inverted classrooms. Addressing that reality as something that learners might experience could help prime them for that as well as develop skills for such settings. Also, knowing that might provide more of an impetus for mastering some of the skills discussed in this text. For example, comprehending reading is critical to solving more complex problems where learners might not be provided with explicit instructions (e.g., case studies) as opposed to multiple choice/short answer/essay tests where the parameters are more well-defined.
The book also includes a few references to the campus at which the course is taught. Perhaps referring generally to the college campus and typical resources offered at a variety of campuses might also extend longevity and reach.
Also, since the book relies on a number of outside links to supplement the learner with additional information, it would be necessary to check the links to ensure they are still relevant.
Clarity rating: 4
The book was easy to understand and definitions of critical words were largely provided. There were a few words that I thought could be defined for the benefit of the reader especially if choosing this text for a first- generation group of college students, but, for the most part, definitions were present and clear.
The size of the text as well as the tone of the writing helped make the writing feel more approachable. There was only one section that I needed to read a few times to truly comprehend (ironically, this section was the reading comprehension section). That section describes different methods that teachers have used to help students to comprehend reading.
Consistency rating: 5
The text follows a consistent format that includes learning outcomes for each chapter, materials needed, pertinent definitions, explanatory text and exercises. There are 3 units followed by a mid-term project and then another 3 units followed by the final project.
Modularity rating: 5
Because this book is very consistent in its structure, it would be easy to break into smaller sections to serve a different course. The text follows a consistent format that includes learning outcomes for each chapter, materials needed, pertinent definitions, explanatory text and exercises. There are 3 units followed by a mid-term project and then another 3 units followed by the final project.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5
The book's topics are presented in a logical, clear fashion that begins with helping the learner think about their own learning styles. Beginning with this topic makes sense since learning style will affect how the learner develops and uses the other critical skills mentioned in the book. Time management, then, helps orient the learner to thinking about how to allot their time in performing the skills. Note taking and reading comprehension are skills that are necessary for test-taking and the chapters follow in that order reflecting the academic preparation process.
Interface rating: 3
The book includes learning activities and supplemental information provided through links and referenced within the text. At first, I thought that I was missing additional files for these activities. However, after assistance, I realized that the text was actually hyperlinked to outside websites. It would be much more helpful to have links underlined, colored, or highlighted in some way to differentiate them from the rest of the text especially when they are critical to the text.
There were a variety of large sidebars that included interactive activities and reflection prompts which aided in application of concepts to personal experiences, which is a great asset overall. The placement of some of these were awkward with some of them being toward the bottom of the page with no text above them. They were also sometimes placed awkwardly in between different sections of text in a way that took away from the message of the words outside of the sidebar.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
The grammar in this book did not detract from the message or my understanding of the information. Although the book can be informal in parts, it was approachable and I imagine would be helpful to learners fearful about these topics.
Cultural Relevance rating: 4
The book included a lot of different examples of possible living situations that students might find themselves in across a variety of social identities (e.g., age, race, ethnicity, gender). It is definitely well-suited for a community college with older students who may or may not parent or have work or family obligations. There was one reference to God in the world view section but it was an example of a potential student's situation.
I am not sure if this would be offensive to learners individually or from specific cultural groups, but there was a string of examples around the topic of taxidermy (preparing and mounting dead animals).
I really appreciate the time the authors took to write and share their work! These are really critical skills for learners to develop to be successful in college and academia overall. The desire to help empower learners and help provide them access to important resources and opportunities is evident in this book.