Real Deal English Bot helps students practice English with lesson podcasts, review activities and provides useful feedback.
Real Deal English (RDE) was looking for a solution to provide affordable and personalized speaking practice to the hundred’s of millions of students around the world learning English. Realizing that it is logistically impossible to rely on live teachers to provide speaking practice opportunities and feedback, RDE wanted to explore automated technologies that could complement its existing lesson input and review tools.
To provide automated practice, we first built a Facebook Messenger bot for RDE. The bot allowed students to listen to a dialogue then engage in a variety of review activities. An authoring system was also built to help RDE teachers develop teaching plans modeled on how a one-on-one session would traditionally happen in a classroom. Students were able to interact by text entry or voice recordings that were transcribed to text and then evaluated. As students went through a series of ‘interactive branching’ steps, automated replies responded to student answers in order to keep the flow of the lessons going. In the case of free-form text replies by students, the admin system allowed teachers to monitor incoming answers and add new replies, making the platform smarter and smarter the more it was used. While students were allowed to sample five lessons, e-commerce features were also added to offer student subscriptions to access the full lesson archive.
While the bot facilitated practice, it was quickly discovered that the primary way students interact with the bot was by tapping replies into their phone. Since the original goal was to provide scalable speaking practice, we then built an Alexa voice skill based on the same lesson authoring platform with the goal of making the primary channel of student interaction done by voice.