Students favouring apps over textbooks

Thursday, 23 September, 2021

Students favouring apps over textbooks

An Australian STEM education web app is providing interactive learning to Year 11 and 12 students.

BioBrain substitutes YouTube for professionally developed curriculum that students can flick through on their phones and delve into on their PCs. Created by a team of Year 11 and 12 teachers, assessors and revision lecturers, as well as a Monash University professor and PhD candidates, BioBrain is now available on desktop and mobile devices for Year 11 and 12 students. The app is currently being trialled by 50 schools across Australia in the subjects of biology, chemistry and physics.

This kind of educational model is recognised worldwide, with the global e-learning market predicted to reach $455 billion by 2025. With blended and digital learning highly regarded by governments, corporates and education sectors, Australia has an opportunity to lead with innovative, tech-based solutions such as BioBrain.

“Every day I speak to teachers who tell me their students are not reading the textbooks, and in a survey of students, 75% said if they could choose between BioBrain and a textbook, they would choose BioBrain, with the remaining 25% undecided. What this shows is not only is there a demand for digital learning, but an opportunity — now more than ever — to get it right,” said Australian curriculum developer, teacher and BioBrain Founder, Caroline Cotton.

COVID has exacerbated the challenges of engaging digitally native students in the traditional textbook-and-classroom model. Keeping students engaged on Zoom, trusting them to read the texts, and upload or mark their own homework are among those challenges faced by teachers, whereas students struggle to stay motivated with decreased interaction.

“Not to mention the inherent difficulties of teaching STEM subjects in this manner — science, technology, engineering and maths demand innovative methods in which students can grasp new concepts at their own pace,” Cotton said.

Speaking of her daughter’s experience, parent Katrina Bell said: “We were having difficulty with her Year 11 biology notes and textbooks. She never knew how much detail was required. BioBrain allowed her to test her knowledge on the VCE Biology course with quizzes and she loved having the answer explained when she answered incorrectly.”

With BioBrain, comprehensive course information is broken into bite-sized chunks, making content easy to absorb and learn, in the way digital natives are used to grasping new information. Instant scored quizzes let students apply their knowledge right away and access real-time feedback, while minimising marking for teachers.

This is the first generation of teachers who have grown up with the Internet, with 60% of teachers being Millennials who are more digitally savvy than ever before. They understand the benefits of personalisation that these edtech tools offer students and teachers. For example, with BioBrain, teachers can easily identify trends in student performance and set work for a few students or the whole class.

“BioBrain is like having really fantastic notes already prepared and set out clearly with diagrams. Once you get into it, you realise what a time-saver it can be. My daughter checks everything on BioBrain and it gives her confidence that she has covered the entire syllabus in the required level of detail,” Bell said.

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