Using technology to learn more efficiently

It’s a problem that students have dealt with for generations. How do I best study and retain information in an efficient and timely manner?  The pressure to acquire specific knowledge within a given timeframe can be overwhelming. Traditional methods such as cramming and memorization through the use of flashcards are often employed, but these “old standards” are accompanied by some serious shortcomings.

That’s where a company called Course Hero wants to help. They have devised a program using established study techniques paired with a technology based system that enables students to learn more effectively. This unique method involves digital flashcards and a program called Optimal Learn, an online productivity tracker that helps students focus and stick to a study schedule.

While traditional flashcards are one of the simplest and most effective study tools, they take a substantial amount of time and materials to create. Digitizing flashcards was the first step Course Hero took in improving the old school learning model.  Available online, students have the option of using an existing set of flashcards or ones they have prepared on their own. These digitized “knowledge bites” are simple to create and can be fine-tuned to help students condense and simplify information so that they absorb the important facts quickly.

Another flaw with the old method is the difficultly to gauge just how much information is actually being retained.  Thanks to the very human tendency to sneak a look at an answer and the lack of accountability when self-testing, the amount of information actually being processed can easily be overestimated. To counter this, Course Hero offers flashcards quizzes. These online mini-tests allow students to periodically assess their knowledge and provide a realistic sense of their retention level.

It’s crunch time and you haven’t put in nearly the amount of effort that you planned to when starting out. Probably the most difficult challenge students need to overcome in order to study effectively is the self-discipline needed to stick to a regimented schedule. Even with the best intentions, students often wait until the last minute, desperately cramming bits of information in a bid to pass an exam.  This method of learning is inefficient and counterproductive. Often students are so exhausted from a late night of forced study, they are less alert and focused while taking the test the next day.

To combat this, Course Hero created Optimal Learn, a technology based system of scheduled learning.  This program works in conjunction with Course Hero Flashcards to not only optimize retention after a flashcard study session, but also help students stick to a productive study schedule.  The process is simple. Working from an established set of flashcards or ones they have created to suit their needs, students select a specific date by which studying needs to be completed . Optimal Learn then creates a program specific to the desired timeline and the amount of information that needs to be retained.

Once a deadline has been established, the program emphasizes spaced repetition and takes advantage of natural memory cycles by reminding students to study at the key intervals that maximize retention. Each study session follows a unique format that alternates between review segments and mini-quizzes that track the student’s level of mastery as they learn. To keep the process on track, students receive regular email notifications on their progress as well as reminders to study the next round of new content or review a previously studied session. This process ensures that students feel as confident with the material as possible by their deadline.

This combination of digitized flashcards, online quizzes and scheduled study time is an immensely powerful learning tool, and an exciting example of how technology can make the learning process more efficient and effective.

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