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Downtime discussion 4: whither presentations and tests?

By Memrise Blog

Memrise is down at the moment for the final in a series of database migrations (see here for more information on this). This is causing painful withdrawal symptoms in Memrisers across the world, for which we are deeply sorry.

While we await the return of Memrise, and to keep our minds stimulated, we’ve seen some very interesting questions posed here about memory and Memrise, some lively discussion here around what makes learning fun, and an interesting experiment with mems here.

In what should be the last of the discussions, we’d like to air two features we’ve been preparing behind the scenes and which we will be looking to experiment with in the medium term.

The first is sentence-tests, the second is alterations to how we present mems.

Sentence tests

Tests, to quickly give an overview of their utility, are on Memrise a) to strengthen memories by demanding active recall b) as a more interesting way of providing reminders, according to our spaced repetition algorithm and c) to help us measure how well you know things, hence allowing us to adapt the difficulty and timing of future reminders/ tests.

They can also, in principle, be an opportunity to learn new things about a word.

At the moment, while watering your gardens, one simply has to recall the meaning of a word or its definition, or its pronunciation, on the basis of one of those dimensions of the word. We will be expanding this to allow for pure vocabulary tests that test the word in context- both with multiple choice and typing tests. This was something that we heard from almost every Memriser earlier this year after extensive phone calls with those kind enough to spare the time to explain the deepest Memrisian desires.

Here are a couple of mockups of how it will look, where you can see how, in the first case, we’ll test the meaning of the Spanish word for PARK in context, without requiring you to understand the whole sentence, but nonetheless giving you the chance to do so. You just have to click on the right answer.

And secondly, here’s a sketch of what a typing test will look like:

These tests will be user-generated and curated, like so much of the rest of Memrise. To create them, the idea is that you’ll include in square brackets the foreign language key-word, with the English keyword that is its equivalent similarly bracketed out in the English sentence. Early trials indicate that demanding exact matches won’t work flexibly enough, so this will rely on the community’s eagle-eyed inventiveness.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about these tests, and how you’d like to see them deployed. We intend to make them the default test type, where they are available, for watering in the garden.

Please do share your thoughts below!

Innovations in presentation

This is by no means a priority, but in the long term, we want to help people find the content that will most help them learn as quickly and effortlessly as possible, and for the best mems -whether they be mnemonics, example sentences, extra information, videos, or, in the future, interactive games- to be both easily discoverable, and to rise naturally to the top.

In the spirit of brainstorming for the long term, since we won’t be changing these things in the next month due to more urgent things in other areas, we’d love to hear your thoughts about these three possible ways of presenting mems in the learning process:

The first is mem-array- where you would be able to see either 4 or 9 mems of all kinds. You’d select one by clicking; hovering over would expand the size.

“A mem array”

The second would be more like the current set up, but where you could scroll across, with part of the next mem visible, till you find the piece of information or imagination that most helps/stimulates/amuses.

“Scrollable mem selections”

An alternative form for this would be a straight, scrollable blog-like sequence of mems. Something like what you see beneath on the right hand side. You’d scroll down till finding a mem that met with you satisfaction, select it, and then continue. 

As I say, these are ideas for the future. But while we await the final phases of our database migrations to reach completion, it would be great to hear the community’s intuitions about the interest of these options.

Shout out if you’d like to try them out!

For our part, we’re excited about how we can meet the challenge of providing value for all kinds of learner, and providing great ways for everyone to be able to find just the kind of mem that suits them best- whether it be a mnemonic, a photograph, an example sentence, an etymology, a joke shared between friends, or even just a note on a personal experience.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!