Friday, February 3, 2012

Student or teacher generated cards?

Based on my first semester attempt to incorporate AnkiWeb into my Freshman (first year) Economics faculty classroom, I made some changes in the second semester. One of those was to have the class meet once a week in a computer lab to create their own cards.

In the first semester, I created a class account on AnkiWeb. Then I created individual decks for each student from the class materials on my Anki desktop client program which were uploaded to AnkiWeb. The students were then shown AnkiWeb in class and given the shared username and password for the class account. There were three main reasons for this:

1) It allowed me to ensure the accuracy and consistency of the cards.

2) I was able to easily access each student's deck to monitor their progress.

3) I did not have access to a computer lab for the class.

However, at the end of the semester, I realized that even if students successfully used AnkiWeb and realized it potential, they would not necessarily be able to use it on their own. Due to my desire for control of and access to student decks, I had not created independent users of AnkiWeb.

So, in the second semester, I arranged for the class to meet every Monday in a computer lab. This allowed the students to create their own AnkiWeb accounts and cards from class materials. Overall, I feel that it was successful in creating more independence; however, there were some other difficulties that should be addressed.

When students were absent on a Monday, they would obviously fall behind in terms of creating cards. I asked those students to make the cards on their own time, but sometimes they would not and would fall behind. The same would happen with students who were late or who were slow typists.

Also, students would often make mistakes in terms of the content or the formatting of the cards. They would sometimes mistakenly make a new deck every class, creating multiple decks and subsequent confusion. With a class of 20, it was difficult to monitor all the students in the lab to make sure everything was going smoothly.

And finally, by not having direct access and control of student decks as I did in the first semester, it was very difficult check students decks for any of the problems discussed above.

With the students in the computer lab, I could look at their decks via AnkiWeb, but the interface only allows a very limited ability to examine and search for cards. It was also very time consuming in a 45-minute class period.

I did collect their usernames and passwords so I could access their decks directly via the Anki desktop client program. However, as the program has to be synced to each student's AnkiWeb account with a different username and password, it is also a very laborious and time consuming process.

So, there are definitely pros and cons to both student generated cards and teacher generated cards. However, in my opinion, I think creating independent users of Anki is more important than the desire/need for teacher control and access.

Perhaps the upcoming Anki 2.0 will have options to address these issues.


  1. One year I made an assignment to make an anki deck for a lecture. I gave a different lecture to each student. I graded them, edited them, and made them available for future students. In one year I had all of my lectures turned into anki decks. You can see more about it on my TEDx talk, "Don't Waste Student Work." --Jim Davies

  2. Dear Jim,

    Just finished watching your TED talk on youtube. I really enjoyed it and found it very informative. It's nice to see a teacher taking a serious look at the education and how it can be transformed into a student-centered process, productive process. So much of traditional education seems to have never taken a self-analytic look in the mirror to see if it actually works. In my field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), there is so much time, effort, and money being wasted (in my opinion). It frustrates me a great deal.

    You many have already seen this article on cognitive fluency in the Boston Globe,

    but it dramatically affected me and how I view teaching and learning (I'm a serious student of Japanese). I have been trying to incorporate what I perceive to be the three main points into all aspects of my classes: repetition, clarity, and simplicity.

    Good luck in the future! I will do my best to keep track of your work.


    Rich Bailey
    Asia University, Tokyo

  3. I'm an English teacher in Saitama and I want my students to benefit using Anki.
    How did you make a class account on AnkiWeb?
    Is it possible to make multiple class accounts?

  4. Dear Andrew,

    It is possible to make as many accounts as possible, but each account needs its own email address. Originally, I created one account for the class, and then created a deck for each student. The students would all log into the same account, and then find their own deck to study.

    However, I wanted to create independent users, so the next cycle involved them making their own accounts and decks online. Teaching them how to use the Anki computer program was more than I wanted to try.

    However, after trying to teach my students how to use Anki for three years, I no longer think it is the most appropriate tool for the average student. Anki takes a great deal of time, patience, effort, etc. to work properly, and most of my students are not interested enough in learning English to be that committed. If you have some students that are independently motivated and very serious, then they should learn about Anki.

    I know think that a non-SRS program, such as Quizlet, is more appropriate for teaching. It is more forgiving of inconsistent studying, easier to use, and has more games/study modes than Anki. Don't get me wrong; I still think Anki is the best learning tool (I use it every day), but I don't think it is the best teaching tool when dealing with the average student.

    I have been using Quizlet in my classes for the past year or so. If you want to see some of a deck I have made for students, please check this link:

    You can see other decks under my username of "richbailey"

    If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I plan on writing more about this soon.