The story behind Luna
3 minute read
Revision and the DSA. When I was a needs assessor, it never really seemed to be a big part of the assessment - which is maybe surprising given that exams and time assessments remain an important method of assessment for most higher education courses.
I think it was because I’d talk about how using text-to-speech or mind mapping software can help with revision, or how having audio recordings of lectures to go back over is really helpful when preparing for an assessment. Or how a study skills tutor or mentor could help get ready for exams. So, it wasn’t missing from the assessment, but just never really took centre stage.
But… there are two, really solid, evidence-backed methods that can make revision so much more effective - spaced repetition and active recall. And for students struggling with memory, processing information, concentration, fatigue, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or struggling to motivate themselves, these methods should, to me, be available through the DSA funding.
So that’s where Luna came from - something to help create flashcards as they enable the active recall method, combined with something to schedule how often you go through the flashcards based on the principle of spaced repetition (essentially seeing new or more difficult flashcards more frequently).
How about Quizlet?
Quizlet is a very successfully learning tool, and provides a load of great features for free. As is Anki, which also uses spaced repetition. So why should the DSA fund Luna when there are these free options?
The big difference with Luna is that it has been made specifically for students who experience difficulties with aspects of learning. Essentially this means that Luna gives students more flexibility when scheduling how often they review cards so they can meet the specific needs of their learning profile.
The AI debate
When we started building Luna and looking at how AI could help with creating flashcards, we had no idea that ChatGPT was on the horizon and that AI would become such a thing so quickly. Nor did we know that the role of AI in education would become such a hot topic.
Fortunately, Luna was always designed so that AI would help with creating flashcards, but ultimately the student would control the content of those cards. So, firstly, Luna extracts key information from the text you give it (rather than crawling the web for anything related to a subject) and then gives the opportunity for that information to be reviewed and edited before the flashcards are created.
But the real credit goes to
A student I assessed described to me how they went to lectures and made notes, then wrote up those notes into a series of flashcards afterwards. They would then go through those cards each week until they got all of them correct.
By the time of their exams, they would therefore not have much to do to prepare because they had effectively been revising throughout the year.
This blew me away. The amount of work the student was doing was amazing, while it also sounded like such a watertight system for success. I was really impressed, and their system really stuck with me.
Fast forward five years or so, and this was what the idea for Luna was based on - a way of implementing that system that all students could benefit from. And if Luna goes on to help lots of students do well on their courses, as I really hope it does, that student deserves a mention for starting it all off.
If only I could remember their name…