Even before the COVID-19 pandemic that has driven a rush to remote learning, Cerego was a valued tool for education at the Het Stedelijk Lyceum in Enschede, Netherlands. Having discovered it when she herself was a university student, computer science instructor Heleen Kok knew that Cerego could not only help deliver information, but also help learners develop better study habits. Now, she and her colleague Wow de Wit have applied that same approach to make remote education engaging and valuable.
“As a student, I wanted to find a way to study more efficiently—I was looking for something that would help me learn the concepts I needed to know in a better way than cramming the night before the exam,” explains Kok. “That’s what led me to Cerego—I’m a teacher now, and I use it with my students.”
That knowledge of Cerego’s ability to engage students in the right way is also what led Kok to leverage it in a remote learning context.
“We introduced Cerego to our school, because we felt that it could solve the exam proctoring problem we have during the lockdown,” de Wit says.
“The problem we face is that it is really hard to prevent cheating during exams from a distance, and that makes retrieval questions where you test the concept knowledge impossible,” adds Kok. “In September, I had already tested Cerego as a way to replace an exam with two groups of students, and still test the concept knowledge, and I was really excited with the results.”
Building accountability—and better study habits—at a distance
“It solves the proctoring problem we have for exam questions that test concept knowledge,” says Kok. “It sets out a spaced repetition-based learning path for the students, which we really like, because we have a lot of pupils that start cramming the day before the exam, and then forget everything they have learned the day after the exam. These students do pass the exam and think that cramming is a successful study method.”
While that strategy can work for one-time assessments and short-term knowledge, it not only leads to poor retention, but also higher stress levels as bad study practices become habits that are difficult to break.
“Pupils who cram a lot in high school get stressed out at the university because their learning strategy is not effective any more,” she outlines. “We know that students can still grab their book while studying the concepts with Cerego, but we hope they will eventually notice that learning it is faster than looking it up.”
"The most important features to me are the analytics of a group—the quick overview of the students' progress. I also like the difficulty ranking of the concepts, where you can see as a teacher which concepts are hard for your students. This helps me prepare my coursework and adapt them to the pupils' needs."
- Heleen Kok, Computer Science Teacher
The extended period of study, as well as the regular engagement with the platform, also means instructors can gamify the experience for their students.
“I found that it improves the motivation of students,” de Wit says. “I formulate my assignment like it’s a game for which they have to level up. It helps students feel connected—if you are able to see that your peers are also studying and progressing, you are more likely to put in the effort, than when you have the feeling that nobody will notice it if you skip the exercise.”
Conversely, Cerego also helps learners know when it’s time to give themselves a break.
“The spacing algorithm, telling students to stop learning is unique. Most of the other learning tools use streaks and points to level up. Which is fun, but also addictive. Cerego stimulates pupils to learn at the right moment instead of a day before the exam.”
Making a lasting difference for students
Another aspect of Cerego that Kok and de Wit value is the learner analytics. While it can be a major challenge to know how students are making knowledge gains in remote learning environments, Cerego’s analytics offer not only a group-level view of progress, but also show individual learner development at the concept level, making it easy to address knowledge gaps and personalize your follow-up based on each student’s specific needs.
“The most important features to me are the analytics of a group,” she says, “the quick overview of the students’ progress. I also like the difficulty ranking of the concepts, where you can see as a teacher which concepts are hard for your students. This helps me prepare my coursework and adapt them to the pupils’ needs.
“In my course I don’t use written exams, I only use practical assignments. In September, I used Cerego to test the concept level of the pupils and translated their Cerego level to a grade that was combined with the practical assignment. I want to do this for all the assignments, to help students understand that learning the concepts is something you do over a longer period of time.
“I hope that my students will benefit from this style of learning and will hold onto effective learning strategies from which they will benefit later in life.”
Thanks very much to Heleen Kok and Wow de Wit for the interview! You can learn more about Het Stedelijk Lyceum via their official website. Photos courtesy of Het Stedelijk Lyceum.