Evaluation of student facing web-based services: Studyit (CORE Education)

Publication Details

The document provides a final service report on the Studyit website as part of a larger evaluation of web-based learning services for children and young people in New Zealand. The report is complemented by similar reports relating to the AnyQuestions and WickED websites.

Author(s): Ann Trewern and Derek Wenmoth, CORE Education Limited.

Date Published: August 2008

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Section 6: Alignment and transfer of learning for young people

The bigger picture

Studyit is a web based 'Question and Answer' site that has a focus on providing students the opportunity for asynchronous 'just in time' interaction with an expert – in this case a secondary school mathematics or science teacher. As such Studyit is representative of a genre of online 'help sites' to support student learning such as Using English an international forum for English language learners and Sparknotes which offers study guides and interactive forums on subjects from math to chemistry as well preparation for the scholastic aptitude tests for entry to North American Colleges.

What is unique about Studyit is that it offers subject content and interactive forums that specifically relate to the NZ senior secondary syllabus and NCEA examinations for Science and Maths and more latterly English. It is this unique focus that provides the driving reasons for involvement by the core active group who use the site as part of a repertoire of tools for independent study that include class lessons, school notes, study guides, textbooks and friends. Studyit is very specific in intent and purpose and it appears that this specificity is what appeals to the current group of core active users as in illustrated in Table 29.

Table 29: Specific areas of help - students
Forums provide access to advice and guidance from teachers and other students … asking questions mathematics such as questions in old exams etc. If I don't understand something the teachers or other members of the site help me. In all the forums you can put down your essays etc. and people can help you improve them.
Learning from what others had posted on forums after traditional information sources failed be of help I needed help learning the chain rule in Calculus. The NCEA website did not help me in that case, nor did the tki.org.nz site help me. I saw a question by someone in the forum on chain rule. I saw it and practised it and I learnt it. The 'subject content' helped me to keep up with all the stuff I needed to know.
Providing help in revising subjects with calculations and formulae I mostly use it for maths and physics. As those are the subjects with specific questions that require working. With Biology I can just read over notes and make the links on my own.

What is also unique about Studyit is that it encourages a participatory culture where participants believe that their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another.

Studyit is a community that provides strong incentives for active participation through a communal problem solving approach.

Support for wider educational goals /landscape

Participating students make most use of the site from home and it is this point of connection between home and school – where students sit down and independently try to work through their homework assignment where Studyit, as a support service, comes into its own. Students use the resource as a just in time help for study. When they get stuck, they hop onto Studyit and post the question. This is regarded as extremely valuable by the students interviewed.

As one student said s/he finds Studyit of most use for help with maths and physics problems because unlike biology, for example, the text book doesn't quite guide them through the problem starting point and assist with the process of solving the problem the way a person with expertise can. Other support for student learning that bridges home and school is listed in Table 30.

Table 30: Evidence of links between classroom and home
Reinforcing or practising what they have begun at school Many of the students use Studyit to reinforce what is being taught at school at a particular time AND for their own individual revision leading up to NCEA. (Teacher interview).Students ask each other for notes on what they are studying…so they are building on what they have done in the classroom. They are practising essay writing based on what they have done in the classroom. (Teacher interview).
Seeking clarification or greater depth of understanding of something that has been introduced in school Some have mentioned that they don't understand something they have been taught in school and just want a bit of help. What has been taught in school is often discussed and clarification or a more detailed explanation is asked for on Studyit. (Teacher interview).

Students often say they have not understood a concept at school or it has not been covered and they see that it is required in an achievement standard and ask for extra information or assistance. (Teacher interview).
Striving for excellence in assignment work – cross-referencing advice given in class time. Students ask for help with their homework and how they can they can apply what they have learned to assessment questions.  There are quite a few enquiries based on work students are doing at home for their class assignments/ internal assessment. Quite often students quote their teachers in their enquiries – especially where their seeking clarity on something a teacher has said to them. Often they are looking to improve work a teacher has asked them to do further work on and are keen for extra feedback before handing it in to their teacher. (Teacher interview).Some want to explore perhaps excellence questions and do this off their own backs so Studyit helps them as well. (Teacher interview)

There was evidence uncovered that revealed some teachers were recommending and even using the site. Many students indicated that they found out about the site from a teacher. One teacher mentioned using Studyit in the following way,

  • I print off the achievement criteria page of Studyit at the beginning of reaching each standard and photocopy for my class as it is easier for the students to understand than the standard on NZQA
Table 31: Evidence of use within the school environment
Student online activity registered during school hours Some students ask questions during school hours, other students seem to find out by chance. Having said this I wonder whether there are some students who have not heard of Studyit yet. (Teacher interview).
Have multiple students registering at same time during the school day.(Teacher interview).
Site actively promoted during school time in some cases At our school departments are offering this to students.
Whenever there is an email sent to principals or HODs about Studyit, we notice a significant increase in usage
Many new students on Studyit begin with "my teacher told me about this site ……" (Teacher interview).
Despite this, there is doubt about the extent to which the site is known about I don't think Studyit is really 'out there' yet and I doubt many teachers are aware of it and its benefits. I certainly didn't realise how useful it was until I became a mentor and have introduced my students to it because I think it's fantastic. (Teacher interview).
No evidence from what I've read on line. (Teacher interview).

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