Why has it taken so long to build Get My Grades?
When we first started working on Get My Grades we had a big idea: a technology platform which employs many of the techniques that good teachers and tutors already use to help students learn more, improve more quickly, and enjoy the process. Technology will never completely replace human teachers (don’t believe anyone that says otherwise), but it can certainly do a lot to help them.
Get My Grades is different from a lot of EdTech platforms; we have designed something based on what makes for effective education, not based on what was easy to do with technology. This means that the end result is a great way of helping students learn, but it’s a huge technical challenge. Multiple question types, detailed data tracking and complex algorithms – all of these features involved custom building different software components and making them work together. We have done things not because they are easy, but because they are the best way to help students learn.
So what is it that we wanted the platform to do? What do good teachers do that can be replicated by technology?
How Do We Educate Students Anyway?
Good education involves three main steps: teaching and inspiring students, getting them to practise what they’ve learnt and, finally, reviewing how they did and identifying how they can improve. It is not usually enough just to tell someone information, or give them a book. This has nothing to do with ‘learning styles’ (the idea that people have a ‘learning style’ is not really supported by evidence and is more just a matter of personal preference); it is mainly because the most important aspect of learning is practice, feedback and improvement – what is often referred to as ‘the testing effect’.
Don’t other websites already provide educational content and even the ability to quiz yourself and answer questions? Yes, they do, but the quizzes are almost all multiple choice questions which are of limited use when you’re going to be assessed in an exam paper that requires you to write out your answers, mathematical calculations or even write an essay. Most educational websites use multiple choice questions because they are easy for computers to mark, not because they have any special educational value.
Making Education Enjoyable.
The educational content itself on most other websites is often tailored exclusively to the exam board – which sounds great, as it is clear to students what they need to learn. However, it isn’t the best way to prepare for an exam and it’s not what the best teachers do. Really good teachers try to inject some enthusiasm into their teaching and are constantly providing interesting extra snippets and facts about the content they are teaching, regardless of whether that information is strictly on the course or not. This is interesting and enjoyable! Think of your own favourite teacher at school – did they stick rigidly to the textbook or course? Probably not.
Of course, it is still important to make it clear to students what content is or is not on their course but, don’t forget: exams always include unusual examples and applications of the core subject content anyway. This is why most students find GCSE exams at least moderately challenging – the unfamiliar examples that they include are quite unlike anything that a student sticking rigidly to the specification will encounter.
Harnessing the Power of Data in Education.
Technology can do what humans are not very good at: recording lots of data and remembering it all. All good teachers keep some form of record of how well their students are doing, but no one can reasonably monitor how well a student does in every single question, and how long it took, and keep that in a markbook!
Teachers don’t have enough time as it is. Teachers are often expected to collect huge amounts of data and workload is now one of the main causes of teachers leaving education entirely. The problem is made worse because the vast majority of educational data is not digitised and is therefore time-consuming to collect and process. The Get My Grades platform changes this: it can keep a record of how well students have done throughout their course and help students (or their parents or teachers) identify what they need to focus on to improve.
Building the Best EdTech Platform Is Complex…
However, doing all of this is very complex. The team at Get My Grades have had to design a whole brand-new software programme to enable these core features (along with their many other ideas for the future) and it has been challenging enough just to find people who are up to the task of helping to create such a platform.
It has taken far longer than originally hoped to get it right and to produce a platform that can do what’s required – almost 100 versions of the software have been produced, tested and refined to get the platform we have now. We are very sorry that it’s later than hoped but you can be sure that if you’re using Get My Grades you’ll have a whole team of experts working tirelessly to help you (or your children/students) learn and succeed!