The latest statistics for SAM Learning are almost embarrassingly positive, writes Maureen McTaggart
Statistics have to be handled with care. Even when they are positive. Too glowing and people might have trouble believing them. That’s the challenge for SAM Learning, a veteran in online revision.
Its latest independent research reveals that learners who spend enough time using its online homework and revision service can get better GCSE results than those predicted by their teachers. Not surprisingly its students are its best advocates, a powerful message to take to the BETT 2013 educational technology show in January.
"Impact of eLearning: Independent research" is the result of monitoring 258,599 Year 11 students over two years. It found that Sam Learning helped improve grades by more than twice the national average.
The Fischer Family Trust, recognised as an expert in "value added" analysis, was commissioned by Sam Learning to evaluate students' progress between key stages 2 and 4. It did this by comparing their GCSE results against “what might have been expected on the basis of their key stage 2 attainment”. The researchers took into account gender, ethnicity and free school meals entitlement and used the "Capped Points Score" measure (used by the Department for Education) so that their performance could be measured against their counterparts nationally.
Students can log on to SAM Learning from school or from home
Equally important for Sam Learning, learner perceptions about revision have changed as a result of using its global online study platform with its series of interactive tasks for each subject, that students can log on to from school or home. A survey of 30,000 students revealed that it increased motivation and confidence: 60 per cent said they used the service in their own time without prompting from their teacher, and 83 per cent said they “liked” the programme. The fact that they have the choice to work anonymously and get instant feedback is something that Leon, a Year 11 student, particularly appreciated. He said, “I like using SAM Learning because people can’t see if you’re bad at something [and] you can do it in your own time.”
According to the Fischer Family Trust report, the students with the most to gain are those in the bottom 20 per cent at key stage 2. If they use the online study platform for 10 or more hours their GCSE results can be at least one grade higher than predicted in four subjects (including maths, English and science). Meanwhile those in the middle 20 per cent at key stage 2 showed an 11 per cent improvement in their predicted 5A*-C GCSE passes by key stage 4. For those on free school meals the result is gains of around 1 grade higher in 2.5 subjects.
These are the key gains shown in the report for students using Sam Learning for 10 or more hours:
- On average students achieved 12.3 capped points more than expected – that's one grade higher in two subjects;
- For students entitled to free school meals the improvement in capped points scores was on average +12.7, equivalent to around one grade higher in 2.5 subjects;
- For students in the lowest 20 per cent at key stage 2, the improvement in capped points scores was on average +20.9, equivalent to around one grade higher in four subjects;
- For students in the middle 20 per cent at key stage 2 the improvement in 5A*-C GCSE passes, including English and mathemtics was 11 per cent, nearly twice the average for all students;
- Gains for expected progress in English were found across the prior-attainment range. Slightly higher gains were found for students with average and below average key stage 2 attainment (+7 per cent) compared to students in the top 40 per cent at key stage 4 (+4 per cent);
- For expected progress in mathematics, the gains increased steadily, going from +5.2 per cent for students in the top 20 per cent at key stage 2 to +12.3 per cent for students in the lowest 20 per cent at key stage 2.
'It gives pupils, no matter where they are in their learning, the privacy to succeed'
Schools considering signing up for web-based revision and coursework materials will be reassured by this research report's assertion that these results are no flash in the pan. It says its findings are reinforced by previous analyses conducted in 2003 and 2008, which show similar patterns to this report: "the relationship between value-added outcomes and task hours of use has remained consistent".
With its focus on exam questions and answers, SAM Learning appears to be living up to its claims to raise pupils' grades, so long as they use it for the suggested amount of time. And if responses to its recent survey describing it as "really cool" and "is fun and makes me feel more confident about my GCSEs" are anything to go by, students whose schools have signed up to the service no longer think of revision as dull and daunting.
“While there is a move back to the traditional end-of-year examinations, revision aids like SAM Learning will be increasingly in demand,” says Justin Baron, managing director of SAM Learning. “And knowing that 83 per cent of the students using the system like it, is a very positive position indeed. One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to engage those 14-year-olds who are too cool for school. But that is what SAM Learning is doing. It gives pupils, no matter where they are in their learning, the privacy to succeed.
Visitors to the BETT 2013 educational technology show in January will undoubtedly want to discuss these figures with the staff on SAM Learning's stand. However the world of online learning services never stands still and they are also likely to discover some new features, like:
- the facility for teachers to create their very own sets of questions, tailored to suit their students;
- an easy-to-use tool for populating school VLEs with useful SAM Learning activities for students;
- a super-quick search facility to help students find the exact revision activity they need and making it even quicker & easier for teachers to set relevant, self-marking homework.
"One of the best features of online services is that customers don't have to wait for the next version of a product to enjoy new content and features," adds Justin Baron. "We simply add them as soon as they are ready. In fact we have added about 30 new activities since the start of term. We think BETT visitors will be really pleased with what they will discover on our stand. And, of course, all these incremental features will also be subject to our ongoing independent feedback process."
School pricing for SAM Learning to give students access to all subjects at school and at home is roughly £2-3 per student (pricing here). SAM Learning also offers free on-site training for teachers and often supports assemblies and parents' evenings.
SAM Learning F270