The COVID-19 pandemic has affected face-to-face learning in many learning institutions. This development has led many learners and tutors to look for web-based solutions. When you take language learning, for instance, teachers need to monitor their students’ reading progress. However, this part of the learning process has been affected by the lack of traditional classroom meetings.
Fortunately, various technological solutions can help solve this conundrum. For example, Reading Progress by Microsoft is a free educational tool for Teams. The tool provides teachers with artificial intelligence estimations of student performance and errors as they read texts.
The Teams application aims to make it effortless for teachers to quickly assess their students’ fluency at reading through audio and video recordings. The tool is user-friendly so that teachers delivering distance learning for the first time can easily use it. On the other hand, teachers that were offering remote learning before the pandemic will also find the tool very helpful.
For example, if you were learning to speak French online, the tutor uploads a single reading fluency passage for the entire class. Alternatively, the teacher can provide different passages suitable for students at different reading levels. After that, students record their reading and send it to their teacher for review.
The Reading Progress app is built into Microsoft Teams Assignments. Moreover, you can access the app from different platforms, including Windows, iOS, web, Mac, and Android. Microsoft launched the app on August 24th, but it is not yet accessible globally. Nevertheless, the giant tech company has stated that it will be available in all regions in two weeks.
The app is a demonstration of how technology can be used to meet the needs of remote learning. It may also make it possible to scale up education. For example, it offers a slight silver lining for numerous students whose progress had been stalled for months.
According to Microsoft, the tool will promote remote education and provide a more effective way to scale up education.
In a traditional sense, it is usually time-consuming and irregular to track students’ fluency. This is because it needs one on one close listening while at the same time managing the rest of the class. As a result, creating recordings enables teachers to check their students’ progress more regularly. At the same time, it frees up some time for the teacher to be actively involved in class instruction.
Microsoft believes the app would be beneficial to people who find reading challenging. This is for learners in middle and high school fluency checks. It is also ideal for special education and dyslexia support. Furthermore, it is also for non-native English speakers who want to improve their English skills.
It is also an excellent tool for students who are not comfortable reading out loud as others listen. They can read in private hence eliminating peer pressure and creating a more conducive learning environment for such students.
Teachers will also love the app’s auto-detect feature. The feature depends on Microsoft’s AI models to quickly review student’s recordings. On the other hand, if you don’t use the auto-detect feature, the app feeds the data it collects from the recordings into the Teams Education Insights dashboard.
This data helps the teacher to see trends in accuracy rates and correct words per minute. It also highlights challenging vocabulary, dropped words, mispronunciations, and inserted words.
The app was released in a private preview in May. Since then, it has been enhanced by several features. They include:
- Support for more than 100 languages. The app has managed to localize over 100 languages. It is also available in all the languages that Teams is supported in. Therefore, if you are practicing your French grammar, the app will help you improve your reading fluency.
- PDF upload. The Teams app allows educators to upload and convert a PDF passage into a Reading Progress assignment.
- Student View. This view allows teachers to see student experience when they are coming up with an assignment.
- Reading passage preview and edit text. This feature allows tutors to modify passages they have already uploaded.
- Extended Auto-detect language support. The Auto-detect for speech is now available in up to 37 languages and locales. However, most of the languages are still in preview mode meaning the company is still boosting the accuracy and adding more languages.
- Enhanced Assignment creation layout. The company has also extended and simplified the interface educators use to upload assignments. This makes uploading and modification effortless.
Technology has played a critical role in making distance learning more effective. One of the challenges for French tutors for beginners is to monitor their students’ reading fluency progress. However, with innovations like the Teams app, these challenges have been addressed almost entirely. So, even as traditional classroom returns, such innovations will form part of the new education systems.