Improving learning with advanced algorithms and text-to-speech technology
A guest post from Anna Redmile, Education Perfect
In 2012, Education Perfect (EP) wanted to use the cloud to access the necessary infrastructure that would allow EP to reach classrooms globally and rapidly scale. The financial metrics were simple for us. The cloud would allow us to focus on our mission and reduce costs. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was our first choice.
EP is an education technology (EdTech) organization that uses advanced algorithms and text-to-speech technology to improve learning through a library of lessons and assessments across multiple subject areas. Our mission is to use technology to provide learning tools and tailored content for educators and students, regardless of location. Our use of technology allows us to reach students in a variety of languages and provides diverse, accessible learning pathways. Today, over one million K12 students from more than 3,000 schools globally use EP for daily learning, revision, and assessment.
“AWS allows us to scale up and down quickly and to easily deliver content globally,” says Ben Crowl, head of engineering at EP.
Security, scalability, and availability are key for us throughout the school year. In a single week, students can answer more than 177 million subject questions. To support spikes in usage, we require our operations to automatically scale with limited manual intervention. Through an AWS Auto Scaling API, performance data is collected and stored in Amazon Relational Database System (Amazon RDS), Amazon Aurora, and Amazon DynamoDB. The applications and content are delivered worldwide with Amazon CloudFront.
“Building on AWS vastly increases the number of students we can reach because we can rapidly and automatically scale our service based on demand. The AWS Cloud adds huge flexibility to the kinds of data we can store, which supports better reporting and insights,” says Crowl.
Advanced algorithms powering recommendations and automation
AWS provides us with the tools to analyze high quantities of custom datasets. Rich data analytics provide the opportunity for teachers to track student growth between pre- and post-test periods to identify and target remediation.
Our adaptive learning capability delivers custom learning experiences that address the unique needs of a student through real-time feedback, pathways, and resources. AWS gives us tools to build customized learning pathways instead of a one-size-fits-all learning experience. We are starting to use artificial intelligence (AI) for recommendations and automation.
Turning text into lifelike speech
Critical to our success is Amazon Polly, which uses deep learning to turn text into lifelike speech. We decided to use Amazon Polly because it allows us to create applications that talk and build entirely new categories of speech-enabled products.
This means that any student can hear a voice for a question without having to read the words for each lesson. Students can follow the text and the speech together, which creates a more harmonious and active learning environment. Hearing natural voices drives higher engagement and makes it easier for those with reading challenges to learn how to read. This allows much greater engagement for those students with different learning styles.
Using Amazon Polly has helped us build accessible, inclusive learning tools. And EP has developed other uses for Amazon Polly, such as generating sound files for vocabulary lists if a sound recording for a word is not available.
“It is amazing to have the technology to generate sound files. We now have more flexibility, especially when dealing with complex vocabulary and phrases,” said Philippa Kruger, head of languages at EP.
This technology fits with EP’s inclusive learning philosophy—now more students can learn, even if they can’t yet effectively read the course content.
Learning the EP way
Alongside more than 4,500 positive reviews from teachers, EP has received hundreds of emails, videos, and letters from teachers and students all over the world. This feedback energizes our team, and keeps us driven and passionate about our mission.
“My students love Education Perfect. It gives them the opportunity to work at their own pace and develop new skills. The activities are interactive and engaging and they love the instant feedback. The response from parents has been very positive. It is a great tool for differentiation and useful for tracking the progress of our students,” says Claire Thomas, teacher at Loreto Kirribilli.
EP will continue to use AWS to build and deliver transformative teaching and learning outcomes to our rapidly growing global user base. AWS has played a pivotal role in the delivery of these experiences. We will continue to work to deliver on our mission to redefine teaching and learning in K12 education.