The best online study tools: students give their verdict
Online supports are revolutionising learning and they may even be making learning more enjoyable
Online resources are changing the way students learn
Students are taking control of their own learning. Where once it was all school, homework and grinds, the online world has revolutionised learning.
And – whisper it – some of these websites, they say, are making learning more enjoyable.
But what are the best resources out there and how are they assisting with teaching, learning and revising? We asked the most independent and authoritative critics of all: students.
All students we interviewed mentioned Studyclix.ie, a site that has become a dominant player in recent years and is looking to grow in other markets; its founders, teacher Luke Saunders and web developer Keith Wright, recently launched Studyclix in Australia.
Max Hillery (17) is a sixth-year student at St Columba’s College in Rathfarnham, a co-educational fee-paying school in south Dublin. He says he uses Studyclix.ie every day or at least every second day. “I’m not a whizz with tech but find Studyclix.ie very easy to use,” he says.
Over in Coláiste Mhuire in Thurles, the entire school – teachers and students – say they are using Studyclix.
Scott Beaton (15), who has just started fifth year, says he uses it for most of his subjects.
“It breaks things down topic by topic and it has a really simple interface. There are videos which can be a better way to learn than exams. You can do questions to see if you are ready for exams and tests, and the forum is a good way of talking to other students about the exams.”
Bríd Gleeson (17), a sixth-year student at the school, also uses Studyclix. “Take the example of, say, differentiation in maths. I can go home, go into Studyclix and explore this topic – there are videos, notes, past exam questions, powerpoints and, through the forums, opportunities to learn from other students.
“ Or, a student who has been getting an ‘A’ in their World War II essays could share tips. It’s like having a grind at home and you can take what you want from it.”
Miriam Bergin, who teaches business studies, accounting and ICT at Coláiste Mhuire, says that teachers at the school are using Studyclix to generate their own tests by topic and it has proven to be a valuable resource.
Max Hillery says he also uses Studynotes.ie, a free service for Junior and Leaving Cert students, with revision notes, sample answers, flashcards and study planners.
This site has an online forum, but it’s relatively inactive: the last Leaving Cert topic was posted more than 10 months ago and there’s a low level of engagement with the forums.
“I do find Studynotes handy for definitions,” says Hillery. “I especially use it for physics, chemistry and biology. This year I’ve been making flashcards with definitions for chemistry. I find the layout on Studynotes.ie is very clear, with designated sections making it easy to navigate.”
Courtney McKee (17), a Leaving Cert student at St Columba’s College, says that when she uses online study tools it is usually Examinations.ie, which contains past exam papers and marking schemes for the Leaving and Junior Cert exams dating back as far as 1995.
“I like that you can check the past exam papers and the marking schemes at the same time,” she says. “I do think the layout could be a little less cumbersome – there’s a lot of fidgeting around to get to the paper you want.”
Overall, however, McKee is surprisingly wary of online learning tools.
“I tend not to use them too much because the danger is that I will get distracted and, before I know it, I’m into my Facebook newsfeed. I find it hard to focus and think is a lot easier to use pen and paper. If there’s something I want to know, and it’s not in my textbook, I tend to Google it.”
Miriam Bergin, who teaches business studies, accounting and ICT at Coláiste Mhuire, says her students use Khan Academy. While it is not designed for the Irish second-level syllabus as such, it has free online classes across a range of subjects.
“We have used it for the short junior cycle course on coding and found it a very useful way of tracking progress, though if takes the first years a while to get used to online learning.”
Bríd Gleeson (17), a sixth year student at Coláiste Mhuire, also uses a website called Alison.com. It’s created by a Galway-based company and has more than 750 free online courses available. Although it’s not geared towards the Irish syllabus as such, Gleeson finds it particularly useful for maths.
English teacher, Julian Girdham, created his own website, SCCEnglish.ie, ten years ago.
It was a way of sharing notes, videos, articles and podcasts about the syllabus, as well as linking to podcasts and book recommendations.
He devised it with his own students in mind but, as it is on the web, he says it’s open to any student who might find it useful.
Girdham is not the only teacher to create their own resource. At St Patrick’s Comprehensive School in Shannon, Co Clare, history teacher Dominic Haugh created LeavingCertHistory.net which contains key course topics, mini-biographies of the major personalities, case studies and more.
Although it was built for his own students, it is now widely used by history students around the country. Along the same lines, there is also LeavingCertIrish.com, created by teacher John Gavin with free online live classes and free notes.
What study tools do you use? Let us know by commenting below, or online #beststudytools
Other online resources that go beyond the exam paper
Not all online study resources are focused only on the exams. Some seek to encourage more effective revision techniques, while others place an emphasis on taking care of your mental health...
Exam Study Plus:
Kevin Flanagan, author of bestselling book Maximum Points, Minimum Panic, has just released ExamStudyPlus.com. This site is about how to study and take care of your mental health, rather than what to study.
There’s a six-step system that helps students retain what they’ve learned and information on how to get your brain working to its full potential, as well as practical advice on how to minimise distractions.
LeavingCertMindMaps.ie and JuniorCertMindMaps.ie:
Devised by Tammy Strickland, formerly a student at the Institute of Education and now a final year student at Trinity College Dublin, this provides advice and comprehensive advice in mind-map format. The Leaving Cert site is still in development but the Junior Cert mind maps are all on stream. Useful for all learners, particularly visual learners. The site also contains useful outlines of the syllabus. There’s a charge of €9.95 for Junior Cert Maps.
Eir Study Hub: This contains more than 400 hours of video and tutorials on a range of subjects, with exam answers. Free with all Eir broadband packages. For those who are not on Eir packages, you can get the same content on ExamSupport.ie, priced at €240 for full access to the end of June 2017 and €370 until the end of June 2018.