Oct 6, 2010 by Andrew Ostarello

In 2008, Scientific Learning introduced a major update to Fast ForWord Language – our award-winning flagship product for language development in elementary-school-aged children. We will discuss the improvements present in the new version of the software: Fast ForWord Language version 2 (or “v2” for short). 

Product development at Scientific Learning occurs with the support of five key areas of research:

  • Basic, foundational research
  • University-based Research
  • Studies conducted by schools using Fast ForWord products
  • Detailed Fast ForWord product use data
  • Outcomes data such as high-stakes reading and language assessments

We looked at these data sources and decided that we could substantially enhance the Fast ForWord Language experience. We set out to create a completely upgraded version of the software.

We had four primary goals for this revision:

  • Increase the number of trials a student performed in a session.
  • Increase the overall engagement level of the products by overhauling the graphics and updating the game designs.
  • Decrease the time required for students to complete Fast ForWord Language, while
  • Maintaining the same levels of learning gain.

As each student uses Fast ForWord software, their machine sends product use data back to Scientific Learning databases in real time. These data are filtered to the Innovation and Research Department for analysis. After we’d developed and released Language v2, we naturally wanted to verify that we’d met our four goals. A few months after release, we used a data mining approach to compare the performance of Language v1 to the performance of Language v2.

Data mining is a very data-hungry process, but our database is broad enough that we’re swimming in data. We ended up with a rich data set containing data from over 16,000 students who used either Language v1 or Language v2. 

Here is what we found regarding our first goal: Increased trial count. In an average 50-minute session, Language v2 users performed 21% more trials than Language v1 users.

Our second goal was to increase student engagement. We created new exercises and introduced new characters. For example, we created Whaliens. The core exercise is the same as Phonic Match in Language v1, but the graphics are better, there are many more exciting animations, and there are multiple new visual indicators of student progress. In addition, lots of significant revisions were made to the stimuli and educational design of this and other exercises. These revisions help create a more enticing experience for students.

Our third goal: We wanted to decrease time to completion. The most exciting finding is that Language v2 takes HALF the time to complete that Language v1 does. This means that students who use Language v2 can finish and start the next Fast ForWord product in their sequence more quickly.

Finally, did we meet our goal of having equivalent learning gain? We found that Language v2 users make 50% more reading gain per hour of use than Language v1 users. Combined with the fact that Language v2 takes about half the time to complete,  it turns out that the total reading gains from v1 and v2 are statistically indistinguishable from each other. 

So Language v2 provides equivalent reading and language gains in half the time of Language v1. This leads to the conclusion that, in addition to offering a more engaging and intensive Fast ForWord experience, Language v2 is twice as efficient as Language v1.

To learn more, visit our Fast ForWord Language v2 productpage.