Manual of Style:
The Memrise 1.0 course creation tools are all new, and they are quite unlike anything else that you will have used before. So we have started this Manual of Style so that we can all start exchanging ideas on the best ways to use them in the best possible way. Your feedback is crucial, so please do tell us what you like, what you don't like, and what you would like to try out. Together we can reinvent the way that everyone learns everything, forever.
First, some background about how Memrise 1.0 works...
There are 3 sides to the content on Memrise:
Dictionaries are databases that multiple people can work on together: many hands make light work. Wikipedia is the most famous wiki in the world, but there are many others; indeed there are hundreds of wikis just on Memrise.
Dictionaries can be set up on Memrise for any topic: for example there are wikis for hundreds of language pairs, professional qualifications, random trivia etc.
These wikis contain the basic facts that are learned on Memrise, together with extra information that is important to help with learning. Eg in language wikis, there is information about part of speech, verb conjugation, alternative meanings, as well as audio recordings of people saying the words.
When you create a course, you can draw from the wikis to fill up your course databases with words, definitions, audio and mems.
The content of the wikis is totally free for everyone to use and to learn. Think of the wiki content as the base level on which all other learning is built. The higher we raise that base, by improving the content of the wikis the better the tools that are available for everyone.
Accordingly, the more you contribute to the wikis, the better your reputation on the site, and the more prominent the courses you create will be (this is not yet live on the 1.0 site, but we are storing the data, and will display it soon!).
Mems can be mnemonics, sample sentences or explanatory notes: anything that helps you to understand and to form a strong memory of a fact.
Anyone can make mems - both learners and course creators - and they can decide whether to share their mems with everyone else, or whether to keep them private, or to only share the with people learning that particular course.
Again, the better the stock of mems on the site, the better it is for everyone; so you get credit for creating ones that help other people, and that enhances your reputation on the site.
At their simplest, they are just fact-learning levels containing the wiki information, combined with mems. We know that the Memrise learning tool helps people to learn facts faster than any other method in the world. So that is a good start; but it isn't enough!
Courses should be a vehicle to express all your love and excitement and enthusiasm for the subject that you are teaching. They should be experimental, quirky, engaging and personal. They should never feel like a lecture; they should feel like a story. The multimedia levels are the main tool for doing this.
Think of your course as a story that you are telling; the bonus is on you to keep the learner engaged, just as it would be if you were telling an anecdote, for example. Try out anything that you can think of that might do that. Memrise will make sure that they learn all the facts; you need to keep them excited about learning more of them.
When you are making your course, you should address the learner's...
- ...needs: choose the facts they need to learn to reach the aim of that course, and arrange them in a meaningful order
- ...questions: try to imagine what questions will be forming in their mind, and then answer them with a quick, light explanation (perhaps through a multimedia level)
- ...emotions: keep on giving your learners that magical glow of enlightenment that comes from making sense of something that used to be nonsense. That will give them the motivation to go on. Don't bore them or overload them or otherwise do things that will lose their attention
Suggestions of how to think about the purpose of the levels
- Learn facts that can change your perception and engagement with the world
- Foreign words
- Historical facts / context
- Jargon, technical vocab
- Recognising animals, plants, works of art
- Building contextual framework so that you can understand what you see and hear more richly
- Explanation and elaboration.
- explanation: explain more background about the bare facts. Most important case of this is probably grammar rules. This is needed, but these should be kept as succinct as possible - grammatical explanation are very dull to read. They should be mixed in with lots of learning levels that give the feeling of progress, and 'application' multimedia levels (see below)
- Elaboration: take a historical date, and add more information about why that date is important. Hang something extra on that peg of knowledge.
- Give that magical glow of enlightenment; the learner watches/listens to/reads the multimedia, and they understand it, and they know that before they had learned what they just learned, they wouldn't have understood it. We may even let them watch these levels before they start, just to make the contrast clear, and give that sense of enlightenment more intensity.
- e.g. An article or a video that uses vocab just learned
- Overall theme and structure to the path
- People like to know where they are going. Give them a sense of the journey and they will be more interested in keeping on going there
Types of Course:
For people who want to create a Personal Vocab List
- Click 'Create'
- Fill in the name of the Course with something nice and descriptive.
- Select the category. This would normally be used primarily to help people to find your course; in the case of a personal list this is still important because if there is a wiki for the category that you choose, then your course will automatically be set up to draw from it. So if you choose 'Mandarin Simplified' for example, it will draw from the Mandarin Simplified wiki (but you will still be able to edit all the words once they are in your list). Click 'create'.
- If there is a wiki for the category that you chose, then the column headings will be taken from the wiki. If not then they will be the default headings.
Method 1 -
Type into the boxes under the headings. Memrise will search in the wiki (if there is one) for matches, and add them where possible, together with the other information that is in the wiki (part of speech, mems, samples, audio etc).
You decide how many words to add to each level - this partly comes down to personal preference, but you should be guided by the idea that you could learn all the words in each level at a single sitting.
Personally I tend to divide my own lists into levels of 25 words; on the other hand, beginner courses tend to start with a level of 5 words, and courses for more advanced learners can go up to 100 words in a level - but that is a lot!
Once you have added as many words as you want to add, click 'add level' in either the bottom left if its your first level or the top left if you already have levels and select the level type that you want to add (this will probably be the one named after the category that you chose for the course). This will add a new level, which you can add more words to in the same way as before.
Method 2 -
To do this we need to go to the course Database. This is where all of the information that is used in the levels is held; it is the central dictionary if you like, that all of the levels in the course draw from.
So, click on the 'Databases' button (which is only displayed once your course has levels), and select the database that is named after the category that you chose for the course.
You want to add words in bulk, so click ‘Bulk Add’ underneath the add button. There are two ways to do this:
Adding a list of words without translations/definitions:
Copy the list of words that you want to add, and then paste it into the 'Paste your text here' box.
Memrise will search the wiki for all of the words that you have pasted in, and will add them to the database if there are matches.
Where there were no matches in the wiki you can click on the definition field and add your own definition.
Adding a list of words with translations/definitions and other fields as well
On your computer, create a spreadsheet of the words and definitions and any other information that you want to add. Make sure that the columns in your spreadsheet match the order of the columns in the Database. Do not create any column for Audio.
Copy the information from all the columns on your spreadsheet (not including the column headings if there are any).
Paste that into the box
Again, if there are matches in the wiki then those words will be added, but if there are any differences between your words and the ones in the wiki, then it will just add the word and definition as you have pasted them in. So if you want to be certain of pulling from the wiki, then it would be best to just paste in the first column of the spreadsheet.
Next you need to create levels from the Database. Decide how many words you want to have in each level (as described above). Enter that number into the box on the top right (that says '25' by default).
Click 'Create Levels'.
Back on the Levels view, you will see that new levels have been created.
Publishing the course
Click on 'Details' at the top on the right. This takes you to the course description page. On the 'course status' drop down select 'unlisted' - this will mean that it doesn't show up on the courses page. If you want it to show up for other people to see on the browse page, then click select 'public'. Finally, click 'save' at the bottom of the screen.
Teacher Setting Homework for a Language
In this example we will use the Levels in the course as different sets of homework - this may be a level for each week, or perhaps two levels per week, depending on the homework schedule!
Fill in the name of the Course with something nice and descriptive so that your students will recognise it when they see it on their dashboards.
Select the category. This would normally be used primarily to help people to find your course; in this case it is still important because if there is a wiki for the category that you choose, then your course will automatically be set up to draw from it. So if you choose 'Mandarin Simplified' for example, it will draw from the Mandarin Simplified wiki (but you will still be able to edit all the words once they are in your list).
Click 'Create Course'.
If there is a wiki for the category that you chose, then the column headings will be taken from the wiki. If not then they will be the default headings.
On your computer, create a spreadsheet with column headings that match the column headings in the level.
Put all the words that you want to teach into the spreadsheet. To make things easier later on, group the words by set of homework, so that all the words for each set of homework are together.
Back on Memrise, go to the first level in your course. Click on the arrow next to 'ADD'.
Memrise will search for all of the words that you have pasted in in the wiki, and will add them if there are matches.
The first set of homework is now complete.
Adding another set of homework:
Click 'Add Level' and select the type of level that will match the category that you chose for the course. Tip - it will not be a 'multimedia' level.
Repeat the same process with this level, adding the words for the second set of homework. You can edit the names of the levels by double clicking on them. Do this as many times as you need to, one level for each set of homework.
You might want to add in some multimedia levels to keep your students interested, and perhaps to give explanations of tricky things like points of grammar etc.
To do this click 'add level' and select 'multimedia'.
Find the url of the video or slideshow or other media that you would like to embed, e.g. on youtube. Copy it.
Type 'embed:' into the 'multimedia level' box, and then paste in the url. It should look, for example, like this: embed:youtube.com/xxxxxx
Publishing the course:
Once you have got all the levels that you want, click on 'Details' at the top on the right. This takes you to the course description page. You can choose whether you would like your course to be publicly listed, or available only to those that you invite to learn it.
If you would like to make it unlisted, so that only people that you invite to it can find it, then on the 'course status' drop-down menu select 'unlisted'. Then click 'Save' at the bottom of the page.
If your course is 'unlisted' then at the moment you will need to send the url of it to all of your students. Very soon we will add in a tool to let you invite people to the course using their Memrise user names, which will then make the course appear on their dashboards, but that isn't live yet.
You will be able to keep track of your student's progress by keeping an eye on the course leader board. Let us know what extra info would be useful to you and we will work out how to supply it!
A course with images:
Click 'Create course'
Fill in the name of the Course with something nice and descriptive so that people will be drawn to it when they see it on the courses page.
Select the category. This is important because it will help people to find your course easily. Also, if there is a wiki for the category that you choose, then your course will automatically be set up to draw from it. This may be useful for image courses, but at the moment it is most likely that you will be adding most of the images yourself as there are no large image wikis on Memrise yet. These instructions will assume that you are not drawing from a wiki.
Click 'Create course'.
If there is a wiki for the category that you chose, then the column headings will be taken from the wiki. If not then they will be the default headings.
Adding images as 'things' to learn:
First you will need to add a new Database of things to learn - images will probably require a different format from the default, so you may as well start from scratch. Click on 'Databases', and then 'Add new Database'.
You are not going to draw from a wiki, so leave that box blank. Just name the Database something memorable, and click 'Add Database'.
This will create a standard template database, which has columns that are useful for languages, like 'part of speech' and 'gender'. You need to decide what information you want to store in the database - this will be the information that you can potentially test on in the levels. So if, for example, you are creating a course for recognising different breeds of dog, you might want to just have a column for the 'Breed', and an image column. In that case you could edit the 'word' column to be called 'breed', and delete all of the other columns so there is just that one left.
To delete a column click on 'delete' and then select the column that you want to delete from the drop-down menu.
Next you will need to add an image column. Click 'add' and select 'image column'.
Now you can start actually adding the things to learn.
Let's continue with the dog course. Write in the name of the first breed that you want to learn. For example, 'Golden Retriever'. Type that into the box in the 'Breed' column, and press 'add'. This will add an entry to the database. Once the entry is there you can start adding pictures to it by clicking on the 'add' button next to the breed.
You can add as many pictures as you like. When you are learning you will be able to see all of the pictures, and during testing you will be tested from one of the pictures, chosen at random.
If you were a learner on Memrise beta, then your courses will have been imported from Memrise beta to Memrise 1.0 using default setting that should work well for most courses.
However, the course creation tools on Memrise 1.0 are much more powerful and you have many more options that on the Memrise beta site, and so you can tailor your courses to make even better than they were before. Here are some considerations to help you take full advantage of the tools:
Which direction do you want to test in? On the beta site this was set for each 'Topic' - so every 'Russian' course, for example, had to have typing tests on the English word, not on the Russian word, because that was what most people wanted. Now you can set the direction of testing individually for each level on each course. This means that you can create levels to focus on learning different aspects of each thing that you are learning.
You can change the direction of testing for a level by clicking 'show' to expand the level on the edit page, and then clicking on the pencil next to the test that says 'test on xxx, prompt with xxx'. 'Test on' denotes the field that you will be required to type during typing tests. If the 'test on' field is an audio or image field, then typing tests will be not be required on the level.
Do you want to duplicate levels? Because of this extra flexibility, you might find that you want to learn each set of words in more than one way. On the 'edit levels' view there is a 'duplicate' button on each level. Click this, and then remember to set the level's testing settings.
What is a “hacking” course?
We have designed a 'language hacking' course template, based on principles drawn from language hackers such as Tim Ferriss, together with data-driven scientific discoveries, an actual sense of humour, word frequency data and lessons from our own research on how best to structure the early stages of starting to learn a new language. It is not intended to be a perfect one- size-fits-all way to learn a language; but master it and you will be well set to have your conversational breakthrough moment!
You can follow the template faithfully as a first draft, but also bear in mind that some words and phrases are not easily translated into some languages; there may be a translation, but one that is rarely used. If you can, always check with a native speaker to find what the most natural way to express the ideas is.
How to get started
First, download the ‘The Big Template’ spreadsheet. Read through the instructions at the top of the spreadsheet - it is of course tempting to skip them, but they are nicely colour coded, and I would hate to think that that effort was in vain.
Start filling in the template, writing down the corresponding word or phrase in your language to the left of each of the English phrases.
What do I write if my language doesn’t use English letters?
Please write the word phonetically (how you would pronounce it) using English letters.
What do I do if there is no translation for the word or phrase?
See if you can think of an alternative word or phrase that you would use instead. If the word/phrase simply doesn’t exist in your language then you can remove this word/phrase from your spreadsheet.
What if there are different translations of the same word?
Please list them separately and insert a new row for the other word/phrase.
What do I write for the ‘Sound Like A Local’ section?
In the 'Sound like a Local' section, please use colloquial sayings or words that you would use in your language. The idea here is to have a bit of fun - put in the common exclamations or slang that the cool cats are using.
What if the words change depending on whether the noun is feminine or masculine?
For simplicity, just use the masculine form for now and add a note in your spreadsheet saying this. Once you have created the course on Memrise, you can add in the other form(s) as an “alternative” so that either will be accepted.
What do I do if the words/phrases change depending on whom I talking to e.g. formal/polite form or a more casual, familiar form?
Just use the form that is most appropriate for the situation given. Don’t worry too much about exhaustive explanation or total consistency. This is about getting people to their first conversation in the language; swamping them with details, however accurate, only gets in the way.
Transferring your spreadsheet to Memrise
In your spreadsheet, copy the '1.' Title i.e. '1. The Essentials’ and then paste it into your Memrise course by double-clicking on the level title i.e. 'New level'.
In your spreadsheet, go to the first level and select the two columns of text with your translation and the English equivalent, and copy them.
On the 'edit levels' page, click the 'Show/Hide' button for your first level. Click on 'Bulk Entry' underneath the 'Add' button on the right.
Paste your text into the white box and click on the 'Add' button.
Next click on the '+ Add level' button and select the 1st option i.e. '[language name] level'
Repeat the above steps 1–5 for the next level.
when you are finished, go the 'databases' button and edit the database for the language that you are teaching.
Click on the edit pencil at the top of the 'word' column, and change the heading to the name of the language. Do the same for the 'definition' column, changing it to 'English'.
N.B. If you need to return to your course at any time, go to 'Home' by clicking on the 'Memrise' logo and click on 'Courses I've created'. Click on your course. Then on the right-hand side at the bottom of the page underneath 'Course stats', click on the 'Edit Course' button.
Audio is essential to learning any language, so if you can record native speaker audio, then that will be a huge help.
Audacity is an excellent free audio recording tool. (although you will need to download an extra plugin in order to export .mp3 files, which is the format that is needed, it is fairly simple).
You need to upload the audio files to each word individually. I find the easiest way to do this is to record a single audacity file for the words in each level. Then go through selecting each word in turn, clicking 'file' and 'export selection'.
Export as an mp3 file. Then upload that to the word on the “edit level” view on Memrise.
Let me know if you have any trouble
On the Memrise website in your course, click on the 'Details' tab beneath your username.
In the 'Description' field add in a short introduction to your course.
Go to stock imagery website http://morguefile.com and search for an appropriate photo for your course. You can go to others, but morgue file images are totally rights-free, so it is a good place to start!
Download the photo and save it on your desktop. Resize the image if it is very large.
Then in the ‘Details’ tab click on 'Upload New Picture' and upload the photo.
It is worth thinking hard about the best way to test people on their knowledge. This will depend a lot on factors such as how hard it is to type in the target language script. Just as rough a guideline, for romance languages I would suggest that for the levels which are pure vocabulary the testing should be set to 'test on [target language], prompt with English'.
For the levels that teach full sentences or phrases, it is good to set it to 'test on audio, prompt with English'. This will mean that they are tested on their listening comprehension, and don’t need to focus on typing long sentences that is often a frustrating and not particularly helpful experience early on in your learning career.
For a language which uses a non-roman script, it might be best to do all of the levels as 'test on audio, prompt with English', because that way they can focus only on the sounds and not get distracted by learning a new script.
But very importantly, email firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know that you are making a new 'hacking' course. Then I can promote it on the site and get other people invovled to help to make your course compulsively learnable!
How do I add audio to a course?
Course creators can now upload audio files to each word in the database for their course. To do this go to the 'edit' page for your course, and then click 'Databases' and select the database that you wish to add audio to.
If your course draws on one of the language wikis, then you will see an 'image' course already there. If not then you can click 'add' and select 'audio column'.
You can upload .mp3 files. You can add multiple files per word. If you choose to test from audio on a level, then Memrise will choose one of the files at random to play in the test.
Can I test from multiple fields in one level?
No. At the moment each level will let you test only on one level. This helps to make each level clearer and more simple, however there are instances in which it would be good to be able to test more than one relationship. We are looking at adding in this functionality, but no decision has yet been made.
If you think that this would be important to you, please send an email to email@example.com with the subject line 'FEATURE SUGGESTION', explaining why it would be helpful to you.
How do I edit words in my course?
You can edit any field in your course by just double clicking on it and making the change you want to. Press enter and the change will be saved.
How do I reorder words in my course?
You can change the order of levels by clicking on the level number in the 'edit levels' view, and dragging and dropping the level to where you want it. The numbering will update automatically.
You can re-order words in a level by clicking on the blue dot to the left of the word in the 'edit levels' view, and then dragging and dropping.
How do I move words between levels?
At the moment there is no way to drag and drop a word between levels, but you can add the word to the level that you want it to be added to by just copying the word and then pasting it in to the add word' box of the level that you want to add it to.
The 'add word' tool will check the course database for the word that you are adding, so it will find the version in your database rather than the version in the wiki. So if you have changed the word since you pulled it from the wiki, you will be adding the updated version to the new level.
Once you have added the word to the new level, you can delete the word from the old level.
What is a Database?
- Course Databases are effectively just simple spreadsheets where the facts that are learned in the course are stored.
- 'Facts' can mean words and definitions, but can also mean pictures of different kinds of leaf together with the names of the trees that they come from; or audio files of pieces of music together with the genre of music, the name of the performer and the name of song.
- When you are learning an individual 'thing', Memrise will draw from the database to find the information that it should display and that it should test on.
- The settings of what is displayed and what is tested are done on the levels, not on the database. The database is the store of all of the information about every 'thing' in the course. The levels are where those things are arranged by course creators into a learnable format.
What can be edited on the Database page?
- Adding extra columns. You may decide that there is an extra aspect to the things that you are learning that you want to add. For example if you have a database full of historical figures and their portraits, you might want to add an extra column with their dates of birth. And another column with the name of their spouse, for example. Each of these additions would require you to add an extra column to the database.
- Deleting Columns. If you have created a Database that draws from a wiki, you might decide that it has too much information, that you would rather was not displayed in your course. In that case you can delete it. For example, in the Guardian Chinese Challenge course, I decided that hearing the pronunciation of all of the characters would be likely to distract people from their learning and make them feel confused: the aim of the course was to take total beginners and teach them to read, not to teach them to speak Chinese as well. So I deleted the audio column from the Database.
- In browser keyboard. E.g. for typing letters with accents in French. You can set the database column so that if ever that column is tested on, the in browser keyboard will appear. You do this by clicking on the edit pencil at the top of the column on the Database page.
- Change the size that text shows up when learning. E.g. Chinese characters are difficult to read when they are very small. So if you click on the pencil at the top of the column on the database page, you can set the to 'appear bigger'. That will mean that whenever that column is tested on they will appear a good size.
How can I set an in-browser keyboard?
Click on the pencil at the top of the column that will need an in browser keyboard to show up when it is tested on. A popup window will appear. You can either choose to add your own keyboard characters to appear, or you can select a predefined keyboard from the drop-down menu.
How can I edit the names of columns?
You can edit column headings on the database by double clicking on the heading, and entering the new text. Press return and the change is saved.
What is the difference between a database column and an attribute?
Columns are the fields that are testable, attributes can be displayed (and we will have more ways to change how attributes are displayed in future), but are not testable.
How do I set a Database to draw from a wiki?
When you create your course, a Database will automatically be set up, and if there is a wiki in the category that you have chosen, then it will draw from that wiki. However you might want to have a second database for storing totally different kinds of information, or you might want to draw from a different wiki. Here is how to do it:
- On the levels page click 'Databases' and then 'Add Database'.
- Name the database so that you will recognise it. The name won't be visible to learners.
- From the 'use wiki' dropdown, choose the wiki that you want to draw from.
- Click 'Add database'
My database doesn't seem to draw from the wiki any more. Why not?
The most common reason for a database to stop drawing from the wiki is that the column names have been changed. All of the wikis have the column headings 'word' and 'definition'. This is done so that they are totally consistent across all wikis. But when you create a course, you often want to change the names so that they are more meaningful - eg 'English' and 'French'.
This is fine, but if you want to import more words from the wiki, you will have to change the column headings back to match the wiki's column headings. This will probably be 'word' and 'definition'
What are Multimedia Levels?
Multimedia levels are essentially the non-fact-learning levels. That is to say they are the levels that DON'T draw from any of the course databases.
They can be slideshows, videos, audio clips or just plain text (though not very much plain text).
What are Multimedia Levels For?
Multimedia levels are there to answer two main needs:
- if questions are occurring in the learner's minds, a well-timed, easily digestible slideshow or video explanation can give delightful enlightenment. These should aim to be as light as possible - no more than 80 characters per slide is a good rule to stick to - and to explain no more than is needed at any given time. See the Manual of Style for more about this.
- Once people have started to learn some more words, a multimedia level - perhaps a short video clip, or and audio recording, or maybe a slideshow telling a story in text. Few things are as exhilarating and so motivating as watching a video in a foreign language, and realising that you suddenly understand it. The same is true of any new thing that you learn realising that the facts that you have learned are allowing you to perceive the world more richly and more deeply is a gorgeous pleasure. As a course creator, it is your duty and your privilege to give people that pleasure!
How do I add a slideshow to a multimedia level?
- Create your slideshow on your computer, using Keynote, or Powerpoint, or whichever program you prefer.
- Upload the slideshow to slideshare.com or speakerdeck.com, or another similar service. You may have to create an account with these service providers, but they are both free to use, and very user-friendly.
- Once the slideshow has uploaded, copy the url of the page that it uploaded to from the address bar at the top of your browser.
- Back on your course, on the 'edit levels' view, click 'Add Level' and select 'Multimedia level'.
- In the new level type embed: and then paste in the url of the slideshow.
How do I add a video from youtube to a multimedia level?
- Go to the video on youtube. Copy the url of the page from the address bar at the top of your browser.
- Back on your course, on the 'edit levels' view, click 'Add Level' and select 'Multimedia level'.
- In the new level type embed: and then paste in the url of the video.