Nolej’s AI-generated classroom tools are a force multiplier for educators

By | September 19, 2023

The idea of ​​bringing AI in the classroom isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the team behind Nolej believes generative AI can supercharge learning while keeping teachers front and center. Nolej AI is an AI-powered tool that allows educators to quickly generate interactive learning modules such as quizzes, flashcards, games, and interactive videos.

“We’re teacher-centric, we put teachers in charge, and we want to make sure they have the tools to teach our kids, with the right tools in the right way,” Nolej CEO Vincent Favrat told TechCrunch.

Now, in the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield competition, the Nolej team is releasing the first version of Nolej AI, which will work in multiple languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese. Nolej AI integrates with learning platforms including Google Classroom, Moodle, Microsoft Teams and Canvas by Instructure, with more coming in the coming months. These integrations mean Nolej AI plugs directly into many educators’ existing workflows.

In both online and in-person classroom environments, interactive material distills traditional textbook education into bite-sized portions that make it more engaging and more likely to stick with students. But crafting a parallel curriculum of crosswords and multiple-choice tests is a job in itself, and yet another task that time-strapped teachers are forced to undertake. Using Nolej AI to generate this type of material takes seconds or minutes instead of hours, and teachers can review it quickly instead of crafting each interactive learning module manually.

Nolej AI co-founder Bodo Hoenen believes that AI can bridge the gap between education’s present and its near future. “We are helping educators generate resumes in real time,” Hoenen told TechCrunch.

“We are designing something for the future of learning. There are not many institutions that can create these types of experiences today, because they are based on infrastructures that were designed 20, 30 years ago.”

AI is far from perfect, which is another reason Nolej is designed to keep teachers in the “driver’s seat.” The team considers the phenomenon of hallucination AI – in which generative AI presents results that seem reasonable but are completely false – a “huge challenge” and has built their product with this in mind since its early days in 2021.

While the large language models that tend to be synonymous with AI today draw on the entire Internet to produce content with a simulated human touch, Nolej AI approaches its task within much smaller parameters, relying on user-supplied materials rather than the Internet. . in general. This model, which Nolej’s team calls “ground truth,” allows educators to feed a curriculum, a lesson, or a set of information into generative AI, which then creates rich supplemental materials solely using that information.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so we take what works,” Favrat said. “Even the format we use, the models – they’re proven, they work – they’re used by hundreds of millions of people. But we want to update the system so that it meets the needs of students.”

Favrat notes the revolution in education caused by the pandemic as an inspiration for developing tools through Nolej. The ubiquity of online classes and even online materials for in-person courses requires new learning formats, many of which are already well established.

“You can’t just upload a PDF and ask your students to read it; it doesn’t work anymore,” said Favrat. “Students want something interactive and gamified – we now know what works for students, so it’s not like it was in the 19th century when science didn’t know exactly. We know what works best for memorizing, for acting as a student.”

Knowledge aims to increase not only knowledge retention and engagement, but also course completion rates. Massive online courses are notorious for their high dropout rates, but interactive learning optimized for an online environment can keep students connected.

“It means they get to the end of the course, rather than saying, ‘Hey, I’m bored, I dropped out,’ and that’s it,” Favrat said.

Nolej AI is the company’s first flagship product, designed for e-learning in a somewhat traditional classroom environment, whether online or offline. But the team is also working on another tool aimed more at self-directed learning, called Nolej LX. Hoenen uses the analogy of Lego building blocks: if Nolej AI generates the Lego bricks, then Nolej LX designs experiences from all the bricks.

Self-directed learners can set a learning goal with Nolej LX and the tool will map out the learning nodes needed to gather an understanding. The goal might be as simple as, say, learning French for a big tour of wine country. But it can also be complex – like learning a skill so specific or advanced that the curriculum doesn’t yet exist.

“I can consult Nolej, [which] it can then generate a map of ignorance, essentially all the Lego bricks, all the concepts you need to learn to build wherever you are, whatever your current understanding is and whatever learning goal you have,” Hoenen explained. “This really ties into the student’s intrinsic motivation.”

“I have kids and they keep asking, ‘Why am I learning this? Why am I learning this? Why is it important? And you know, suddenly giving these students a map of their ignorance, they understand, ‘Okay, this is why I’m learning, because it’s part of this concept, or this idea.’ So there are a lot of mechanisms that make everything much more engaging and exciting.”

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