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Seneca

Overall
Accessibility
Usefulness
Evidence base
Financial Cost
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WHAT IS SENECA?

Seneca is a free online platform created for both students and teachers. Students can use Seneca for revision, utilising the platform to learn information before testing themselves, whilst teachers can use it to set homework tasks and track their students’ progress.

WHY SENECA?

Seneca has been scientifically shown to be effective. In a study of over 1000 year 9 students, those who had spent time using Seneca as part of their revision achieved test scores that were twice as high as those who hadn’t.

WHO IS SENECA FOR?

Seneca is now used by 500,000 students. It is primarily aimed at GCSE students, but it does provide some material for A Level students and limited material for KS2 and KS3 students. Seneca also gives teachers a space in which they can set assignments and monitor student progress.

Evidence Base

Seneca is built around very strong scientific evidence on how people learn. As a result, there is a strong emphasis on using strategies that enhance a student’s memory and long-term learning.

Retrieval practice
Retrieval practice is the act of having to generate an answer. Using retrieval practice has been found to help students strengthen their memory and make links to things they already know. Seneca does this by providing short topic summaries before testing students on this information in a variety of formats.

Spacing and interleaving
Seneca uses spacing by retesting students on questions they previously answered incorrectly after a specific amount of time. Interleaving can also be achieved using Seneca, as not only are the subjects separate, but also within each subject there are further divisions by module and topic.

Both spacing and interleaving are effective in enhancing students’ memory of specific information, allowing it to be applied to new contexts. Spacing and interleaving also increase student engagement, particularly in boring topics. If students swap to a boring topic from one they were previously engaged in, the previous high levels of engagement should be sustained.

Visual elements
In order to create stronger memory traces by linking verbal and non-verbal information (dual coding) Seneca uses images, diagrams, mind maps and videos. In addition to this, when students master a topic, they can select a virtual city on the map in which to place their learning with the hope that when they later recall this city, the associated topic information comes flooding back. Finally, the website has been created to be aesthetically pleasing as positive emotions can help improve memory.

Usability

Using Seneca in the classroom or at home is easy as neither students nor teachers need any training to use it. Seneca does however offer teachers the opportunity to become a Seneca Certified Educator once they have completed a free online course which covers the theory behind the strategies (i.e. retrieval practice, spacing and cognitive load theory).

Seneca helps all students – improvements in learning were seen in students from both selective and non-selective schools. Seneca can also be used on the go, meaning that students could use it on the way to school for example. However, to use Seneca, access to the internet and a computer/smartphone is necessary.

Usefulness

Whilst Seneca offers an easy way for students to revise and saves teachers from constant marking, the automatic marking system does not allow students to log a question for their teachers to improve their understanding if they got a question wrong. Incorporation of a feature that explains each answer would be useful, particularly when answers are incorrect e.g. showing the correct workings to a maths question.

It is also worth noting that in its current state, Seneca does not have content available for all courses and exam boards, although it is constantly being expanded. Follow this link to find out which courses will soon be available.

Financial cost

Unlike some other popular revision sites (such as Tassomai and GCSEpod) Seneca is completely free to use. All teachers and students have to do is sign up with an email address. However, access to a computer/smartphone and the internet is necessary.

THE PROS

  • All content is free.
  • Uses effective learning methods – retrieval practice, interleaving etc. are all backed by scientific evidence.
  • Useful for all – improved student performance in independent, grammar and comprehensive schools.
  • Reduces teacher workload – Seneca does the marking for them, giving them more time to plan lessons and offer extra guidance to struggling students.
  • Immediate feedback – students don’t have to wait for teachers to mark their work, meaning they can immediately identify areas they need to focus on.
  • Concentrate on weaknesses – students can improve their knowledge of and test themselves on specific topics that they understand less.
  • Tailored homework – teachers can set different homework tasks for different students.
  • Questions set by experts – Seneca’s questions are devised by people who have experience in marking exams, teaching and research.
  • Accessible on a smartphone – students can use Seneca anywhere and on the go.

THE CONS

  • Not all exam boards covered – not all courses and subjects are available yet.
  • Not a magic bullet – students cannot rely solely on Seneca to achieve the highest grades as it may not offer enough detail (though Seneca does suggest that this is a study aid to be used alongside other learning).
  • Technology needed – students need both access to the internet and a computer/smartphone to use it.
  • Additional feedback would be good – whilst Seneca marks students’ work, it does not offer explanations e.g. when students answer a Maths question incorrectly, workings are not offered.

Final thoughts

We love what Seneca offers. It’s what good revision platforms should be – simple, effective and based on the best evidence about how people learn. The content is of high quality and we look forward to seeing their expansion to include a larger range of subjects and topics. We also love that it is free, meaning it is accessible to most.

YOU MIGHT ALSO BE INTERESTED IN

  • GCSEpod – This gives students the opportunity to learn specific information before testing their knowledge. Does requires a subscription.
  • Tassomai –  Students acquire the relevant topic knowledge before being tested. Tassomai also requires a subscription.
  • Google Classroom – a free service which allows better teacher-student interactions outside the classroom. Teachers can post assignments, create multiple choice quizzes and immediately answer student questions, whilst students can use the platform to submit work.

RELATED RESOURCES

If students are looking for other ways to maximise their revision and prepare for exams, then our blogs will be useful. Here are a few to get students started:

For further information and to read more of our blogs on exam preparation and revision techniques, click here.

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