AWS Public Sector Blog

EdTech startups use Amazon Alexa to improve learning and enhance accessibility

Our voice is the latest evolution in how we interact with technology. Alexa is Amazon’s voice-enabled artificial intelligence (AI) service and the brain behind millions of devices around the world, including the Amazon Echo. Alexa provides app-like features—called skills—that enable customers to create a personalized experience using their voice. Families and students now learn with Alexa in their homes, and education technology (EdTech) companies are using Alexa to help bridge the gap in engaging and accessible at-home learning.

Two EdTech startups, NuMoola and Ecree, announced Alexa skills to help facilitate student learning using voice. Working closely with Alexa in Education and AWS EdStart, both companies received hands-on support and guidance on best practices to help them navigate their way through the development of their new Alexa skills. Using Alexa and AWS EdStart, NuMoola and Ecree bring essential learning experiences to students at home through voice.

NuMoola uses Alexa to help children build smart money habits

NuMoola is a family finance app that helps children build positive money habits and learn about entrepreneurship. NuMoola uses bank accounts, real missions, rewards, and gamified education to create lifetime savers by engaging students (using PK-12 age-appropriate educational content) to use the app as they grow into young adults.

According to the Council for Economic Education, only 21 states in the U.S. require high school students to take personal finance classes. A recent TIAA Institute report shows that only 16 percent of millennials qualify as “financially literate.” NuMoola is passionate about giving students access to financial literacy materials to bridge that gap for Gen Z and beyond.

“Voice technology enables conversational learning and the exploration of a child’s imagination. Through voice interaction, children better retain critical information and visualize their own goals as they navigate personal finance,” said James Haluszczak, chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of NuMoola.

NuMoola was one of six finalists in the first-ever 2020 Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge and received a builder badge for their skill. The NuMoola Alexa skill focuses on conversations about money management that bring the whole family together. The skill uses interactive lessons, comprehension activities, and tips of the week across topics like earning, saving, spending, giving, and investing. Students can discover a new financial education topic in a minute or less and get rewarded with points when successfully completing a lesson. Each child sets their own unique pace with voice-enabled lessons. The skill links to the NuMoola mobile app, providing families a tool that uses real money and financial literacy to reinforce the fundamentals of personal finance.

Ecree’s Alexa skill helps students improve their writing

Ecree was founded by educators who believe that the way we teach students to write needs to be improved. The volume of work required of teachers limits their ability to provide the focused attention and high-quality feedback students need to develop their writing skills. So Ecree’s founding team created artificial intelligence technology to assess student writing in real-time, following the same rules and providing the same type of feedback as an in-person instructor. With Ecree, students can have instant, on-demand teacher-quality writing feedback on any device, 24/7.

To help students learn through asking questions out loud, just as they would in a classroom engaging with a teacher, the team created the Ecree Alexa skill. Students receive voice-activated guidance on the writing process itself (e.g. “Alexa, how do I start my paper if I’ve been staring at a blank screen for 20 minutes?”), feedback on how to improve the argument and analysis in a draft, and notes on how to fix sentence-level errors (grammar, citations, and style).

Ecree participated in the recently launched AWS EdStart exclusive Voice Builder course and badge and received technical expertise and strategic guidance when designing and building its skill. Through this support, Ecree was able to strengthen the skill and reduce its time to release.

According to Ecree CEO Jamey Heit, as education evolves, access to resources like Ecree’s Alexa skill will create flexible opportunities for remote learning, so students get high-quality writing guidance no matter where they learn from.

“If you’re working with technology in education, you need to be thinking about a voice strategy. The AWS team is by far the best resource available for those who are designing and building their voice strategy,” said Heit.

How to get started with Alexa

Alexa is changing the way children and students learn, both at home and in the classroom. With voice-activated learning, Alexa limits student screen time while providing interactive opportunities for engagement. Children and students can feel in control of their own lessons when they activate Alexa with their voice, and carrying conversations with Alexa boost conversational learning and increase audio processing skills.

AWS EdStart members receive exclusive Alexa Voice Builder courses and support, in addition to other resources for designing new education solutions for EdTech startups. The AWS EdStart program provides EdTech startups with resources to quickly get started on AWS. Learn more about AWS EdStart and how to become part of a global community of like-minded people and companies solving complex educational problems.

Visit Alexa in Education to learn more about how Alexa can improve student learning and streamline education for students and teachers.

For more AWS tools, solutions, and innovations from the public sector, sign up for the AWS Public Sector Blog newsletter.