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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.