SBIR Phase II: A Massive Open Online Platform for Language Learning Content

Period of Performance: 08/15/2016 - 07/31/2018


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Speak Agent, Inc.
155 Gibbs Street, Suite 530
Rockville, MD 20850
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This Phase II project aims to help address the achievement gap for English Learners, who consistently average 21% below native English speakers on reading scale scores starting in 4th grade and are twice as likely to drop out of school. Eighty percent of teachers believe that materials for English Learners are sub-standard, which contributes to this gap. The project provides an online crowd-authoring and sharing platform that gives K-6 language teachers the tools to meet their unique instructional needs on demand. It is the first and only platform to enable practicing teachers to rapidly build digital language lessons and interactive games that align to their specific requirements, without any technical know-how. The platform provides built-in rich media resources that adhere to best practices based on the cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Any teacher may access these open educational resources at no cost, provided they make their own creations available for public reuse, revision and remixing. The project seeks to understand the dynamics of collaboration and quality assurance for interactive content at a massive scale. Crowd-authoring can invest educators with the power to transform language learning into a field that is highly responsive to the evolving needs of educators and learners. This Phase II project will pioneer mass customization of interactive games and media in the field of second language acquisition. The project aims for teachers to create 175,000 custom digital lessons and interactive games using media resources provided by the project. Phase II will develop four new types of games that improve language acquisition using audiovisual experimentation, realtime chat with artificial intelligences, and a new technology that transforms visuals and narratives composed by students into grammatically accurate text and audio. Phase II will integrate these innovations into a crowd-authoring and quality assurance system capable of scaling to 100,000 new teacher-made learning objects per month. By giving language educators tools to rapidly create, share and customize content to meet their precise needs, the project seeks to significantly improve learning outcomes. Phase II will implement real-time formative assessment reports for teachers to evaluate student experiences and issues with the custom teacher-made interactive content. A controlled full-year, multi-site educational impact study will measure whether the project affects vocabulary acquisition, comprehension, grammar and sentence formation, and whether any skill gains transfer to other contexts. It will also reveal deep data insights about the process by which K-6 students acquire a second language.