Thanks for the discussion so far, everyone!
There are many reasons why we have made the changes that we have made. And primarily, it is so we can start taking a much more active approach toward building a more comprehensive study tool.
One of the reasons that we have removed the introduction of new words while reviewing is because we see a clear distinction between the process of learning something for the first time, and reviewing it to help it stick in long-term memory. Since we can’t know whether something is actually new, or just something just being added to Skritter to review, we’re taking a more active approach to distinguish between the two processes.
I think it is safe to say that many of us who have used Skritter for a long time (I just passed eight years in August) have come up with our own unique ways of making new items stick when they show up automatically in the queue. With learning mode, you now have the chance to make all those edits before it goes into the review queue. We’ve tried to make this easy to skip by offering the “mark as learned” option on the Preview card, and we’ll be adding some bulk-add options into the app as well in the future.
By having the learning process at the deck level, it allows us to do even more cool things, which hopefully translate into the faster acquisition of knowledge overall. Most exciting for us, it will enable us to add some additional context to the bits of the language we’re all studying. In-app videos, high-quality example sentences (with audio), grammar points, guided stroke order support, , etc. are all a bit awkward in the middle of a study session.
Honestly, for the first time, we have an opportunity to address the how and the why of the language–and that is very exciting! The Chinese 101 deck, for example, has been studied by 97,499 people to date. And while that is an impressive number, it is a little painful to me personally to know that most people who have studied this deck probably don’t understand how or why it is the way it is. Automatically adding things to a study queue tends to do that. It takes the knowledge transfer, and the “ah-ha!” moment entirely out of the process.
I remember the first time I learned that most Chinese characters are semantic/phonetic components combined. It nearly blew my mind!
It might seem like some of our recent changes are catering a lot more to “beginners” of the language, and that is a fair point. Beginners need the most guidance. They’re also the most significant portion of students studying a language. When I taught Chinese at University, we would see a roughly 70% drop in enrollment from first to the second year! That is a staggering number, and part of the reason is that they find Chinese (characters) difficult. Well, we have a chance to help change that!
All of this isn’t to say that we don’t care about meeting the needs of long-time users! It’s just that we have thousands of active monthly users, and not everyone has the same needs, language level, etc. Couple that with over a decade of feedback from independent learners, students in the classroom, and educators, and it can be a lot to process and prioritize.
We’re actively working on improving Skritter, and we will continue to update and things based on everyone’s feedback. We hope that the recent inclusions of a continuous study mode and deck filtering Review Options are helping to bridge the gap between what you’ve used in the past, and what the app is providing. Let’s keep the dialogue going, and I hope we can find an appropriate balance for all!
P.S. I know this reply is mostly focused around learning and reviewing. We’ve made notes of bugs/missing features, and most of them are already in the queue to be fixed up in upcoming versions of the app.
P.P.S. Regarding “Test” mode. While this feature might not be great for everyone, it is a fantastic tool for classroom study and for checking the overall comprehension of a set/subset of vocabulary very quickly. Can the same thing be done on pen and paper? Heck yeah, but please be considerate of your trees and your own time This study mode is about the best way we could come up with for giving yourself a daily 聽寫 without needing any outside assistance. Also, we find it to be a great way to benchmark overall progress/comprehension at the deck level.