Many people think of flashcards as just a simple tool for studying vocabulary words. But Brainscape flashcards can be used for dozens of question types, and they can apply cognitive science to help you learn faster.
To ensure that you (and/or your students) get the maximum benefit from Brainscape, you'll want to ensure that your flashcards are created and organized in a way that maximizes their educational value.
Below are some tips that we strongly suggest you consider:
- Divide Classes and Decks into meaningful chunks -- Many learners appreciate (or even need) well-organized content to maximize engagement and retention. Dividing complex topics (Classes) into discrete sub-topics (decks) provides a better road map for learners.
- Name your content clearly -- Explicit deck and Class titles provide context to the learner. Concise titles enhance the simplicity of the Brainscape UX. Keep these two goals in balance.
- Be aware of Deck size -- The ideal Deck size depends on the complexity of the Class and the way in which you have broken up your Class into related learning objectives. The sweet spot is generally between 20 and 200 cards per deck.
Decks that get too small -- fewer than 20 cards -- do not leverage Brainscape's CBR study algorithm optimally. Very quickly, the system may begin repeating the same few cards over and over again, which does not optimize learning.
Decks that get too large -- greater than 200-300 cards -- may become frustrating for some learners who want to feel a greater sense of incremental "completion".
- Order your flashcards deliberately -- Although Brainscape will eventually order the presentation of each card based on the user's level of mastery, the initial order of exposure can still be important. It's generally best to start with the easier, more "foundational" content and then proceed to more detailed, advanced content. Also, cards summarizing multiple items are best introduced as a sum of parts previously presented.
- Highlight key points within long text -- It will be easier for your learners to study if each answer is presented clearly and concisely. Even if the answer is complex, it's best to give a quick one-sentence summary answer at the top of the flashcard, then supplementary information below (perhaps in smaller fonts or bullets). It may often be helpful to bold key text, and to add images, audio, or even URL links to supplement the main text-based content.
- Vary your Question formats -- Instead of just using, say, all vocab flashcards, balance your flashcards' consistency with some variety. e.g. "Define this term", "Describe this process", "Identify the labeled part", etc. A variety of different card formats can help your learners avoid getting into a mindless rut of flipping through cards, and keep them on their toes so they learn more effectively.
Note that multiple-choice questions are usually NOT great for Brainscape. Perhaps they might be good in an assessment, but for studying, research shows that simple "recognition" of the right answer is nowhere near as useful as "active recall" (just thinking of the right answer in your head). [See this article for more details on why this is the case.]