COVID-19 greatly impacted the way we learn.
There’s no question that the pandemic created a surge in the use of edutech. With more than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries affected by school closures, the pandemic forced us to think differently about the way in which we learn. Whether it was making remote learning more accessible, creating interactive learning environments or simulating workplaces for “hands-on” experience, a report by HolonIQ states that public and private schools had adopted three to five years’ worth of technology in just 12 months. With this increase in the use of learning technologies, there’s no doubt that developments in the edutech sector will continue to grow. According to a 2019 online education market study by Renub Research, the online education market is anticipated to reach U.S. $350 billion by 2025 with $87 billion invested in education technology between 2020 and 2029 as anticipated by HolonIQ.
Self-paced e-learning will always be a major player in the edutech sector, but the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning has created a major shift in cognitive and remote learning as well, and two companies from eastern Ontario have developed innovative technology that’s leading the way for both.
A recent study by Stanford University states that due to school closures, reading skills have stalled among students. For neurodiverse students with learning differences (LD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who had little to no one-on-one therapy during lockdowns, this impact is exacerbated.
Orange Neurosciences is made up of experts in biotechnology, bioinformatics, cognitive science, AI, digital therapy and software engineering. Founded in 2017 by Dr. Vinay Singh, it’s created ReadON, a non-pharmacological therapy that parents of neurodiverse children can use at home to improve reading and comprehension faster than traditional types of technical support.
ReadON is a digital cognitive-
therapy software that combines the science of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to retrain itself) with AI to “rewire” a student’s brain and adopt imperative skills for reading and comprehension. It leverages visual, auditory and cognitive stimuli through exciting gamified therapy modules to boost phonemic awareness and fluent reading by separating words into stretched sound parcels and creating connections between auditory and visual pathways. These gameplays strengthen working memory, coding/decoding skills, eye tracking, and improve executive functioning skills through multiple, simultaneous demands, performance feedback and problem solving. Computer algorithms backed by AI help to adapt the sessions as per the user’s needs, which means that the software works not only for those with learning differences, but also for those wanting to improve their English, those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury or anyone struggling with reading and comprehension.
The inspiration for ReadON began when Singh, a former university professor, recognized the challenges that neurodiverse post-secondary students and adults were facing. With little to no resources or support available after the age of 18, Singh realized that early intervention for neurodiverse children was vital for their success as adults.
“I felt that better options were needed for both academic institutions and for parents of neurodiverse children, to not only help children succeed early on at school, but to succeed later in life as well.” says Singh, “We needed an inclusive, non-pharmacological and affordable tool that could bridge the gap between education and mental health, a tool that could be used by educators at school, by therapists and, most importantly, by parents from the comfort of their own homes. ReadON was born from that need.”
These gameplays strengthen working memory, coding/decoding skills, eye tracking, and improve executive functioning skills through multiple, simultaneous demands, performance feedback and problem-solving.
Remote learning became the norm for many students during the pandemic, but for international students attending Canadian colleges and universities, remote learning was familiar territory.
Remote learning does have a dark side. For example, completing assignments for Canadian colleges and universities can be a challenge for international students, especially when English is not their first language. Under pressure, some international students resort to copy and pasting information or buying original assignments or essays from third parties to submit as their own work. For post-secondary institutions, this can be difficult to catch. Preemptor AI, a startup based in Oshawa, Ont., is helping with this problem.
Preemptor AI has been working with high schools in Brazil, India and China, and with some Canadian colleges to promote what it calls “a culture of originality.” The idea was formed in 2018 by co-founders Midierson Maia and Bill Ross and launched in 2019. As a professor in Brazil and at Humber College in Toronto, Maia witnessed plagiarism, impersonation and lack of originality in academics, and worked with Ross to create a compliance software initially intended to help colleges and universities catch plagiarism in the act. However, they realized that the ultimate solution for overcoming plagiarism and impersonation in school was to change the mindset of the students early on and so they changed the model to what Preemptor AI is today.
“By convincing students that originality is important, we won’t need to fight plagiarism in the future.” Maia says, “We want to create a culture of originality. We want to make being authentic, original and having integrity a trend in a world of fake news and information.”
Preemptor AI uses artificial intelligence to help students prove their originality with an originality score. This score can be seen by schools that use Preemptor AI during the consideration process for admission, scholarships and bursaries. The higher the originality score a student has, the better.
Here’s how it works: High schools encourage their students to use Preemptor AI when completing assignments so that the students can build up their originality score long before applying to college and university. When logged on to Preemptor AI, the student creates a profile that houses all of their academic credentials, as well as their originality score. AI gets involved when the student also provides a sample of their typing cadence. With that sample, AI can identify the student’s specific typing pattern through things like pressure on the keyboard, rhythm and more. It’s like a genetic signature.
With this typing cadence,
Preemptor AI can determine whether it is indeed that student completing the assignment or someone else, or if the assignment contains copy and pasted material. If the system detects a departure from the typing pattern, it will send messages to notify the student and encourage them to think twice about their actions. If the student’s typing cadence matches, with each assignment completed they accumulate “originality points” that are added to their profile, as well as merit points which can be redeemed for items like college attire, free coffee and more. Post-secondary institutions can view a student’s academic profile and originality score and be assured that they are recruiting a truly qualified student.
“We’re not just helping students prove their originality, we’re helping Canada obtain more qualified international students, too,” Maia says. “You have international students coming to Canada, and if they’re plagiarizing or impersonating someone else, this affects the type of professional the college is delivering to the market. Preemptor AI inspires students to have integrity and originality and that’s the type of future professional we want for the Canadian market.”
We want to create a culture of originality. We want to make being authentic, original and having integrity a trend in a world of fake news and information.