Help students retain knowledge over the summer vacation

There is solid research to show that students slip backwards over the summer. You didn’t need telling that, did you? It is a common experience that, come September, you are going to have to rehearse the learning from last year.

I’d like to suggest a way that Yacapaca can reduce this problem, if not actually eliminate it. It hinges around two powerful but under-used features: timed assignments, and teams. The method does require some preparation, which is why I am blogging this now, three weeks before the end of term across most of England.

The core concept is very simple; one quiz per week through the summer, to keep the key concepts fresh in students’ minds. The challenge is maximising the number of students who actually take the quizzes; just dumping a list of quizzes on them is not going to work.

You need to be a bit more subtle and use two tools – timed reminders and peer pressure. Here’s the sequence.

  1. Make sure all your students have their email addresses registered on Yacapaca. They can add it via the ‘Account’ tab. You will be much better off with their Hotmail accounts than their official school ones that they never check.
  2. Check the teams the students are in and do some activities now to build those teams. The peer pressure component will only work if the students feel their teams are real, and are organised to support each other.
  3. Set your weekly quizzes as six separate assignments, not as one big assignment. Set the start and end dates of each assignment so they must be done in that particular week; Yacapaca will automatically email reminders to students at the start of each assignment. You may imagine that being more flexible will increase the response, but all it will do is encourage procrastination. Of course some students will not be able to complete some quizzes, but that’s OK. It is the overall effect you are after.
  4. The only thing you need to do is check the results weekly and announce the winning team (not the winning individual, please! That will only demotivate those who know they will never win). How do you do announce? Easy! Use a Quick Assignment, with responses switched off so it becomes a broadcast tool. Some weeks you won’t be free to do this, but don’t worry. It’s all about creating the rhythm.
  5. At the start of next term, make a big fuss of the winning teams and hand out prizes. I predict that you will have at least four winning teams out of six assignments, provided the teams were well-balanced in the first place. Yacapaca automatically balances teams so that’s not hard to achieve.

One caveat: please don’t mess with the system. The five stages form a chain. Drop one, and the chain is broken.

If you need any support setting this up, write to me or one of the support team ( and we will gladly give you all the help you need.


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