Amrita University wins $125,000 US in international competition for literacy learning apps
February 26, 2019 - Miami, Florida, USA
Amrita Learning App is an English literacy app which people can use to study whenever they have available time--even before going to bed, on public transit, or at the laundry service. When the next opportunity comes, users easily pick up where they left off. It is available for free download at Google Play Store.
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University) created the app for the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, a competition that challenges teams to develop mobile applications for adult literacy in the US. More than 36 million adults in the country lack basic English reading skills. The app was developed by AmritaCREATE (The Amrita Center for Research in Analytics & Technologies for Education).
Amrita Learning App won the award of $125,000 US after a study of low-literate adults showed significant gains in reading skills over the course of 12 months. It is one of four entries that demonstrated significant improvement in language skills in both Native Speakers (NS) and English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.
“We are thrilled to have demonstrated a huge increase in learning levels across all types of learners. We hope to scale this to millions of learners in the USA through XPRIZE and through the Barbara Bush Foundation, founded by former first lady Mrs. Barbara Bush, who literally defined the family literacy movement,” said Dr. Prema Nedungadi, founding director at CREATE.
This award was the second phase of the competition, with CREATE already having won $100,000 US in the first selection. Amrita Learning App now joins three other apps to enter the Communities Competition. The goal is to reach one million users across the US and includes a grand prize of $1,000,000 US.
Amrita Learning App was developed by an 18-member team who made a personalized learning interface structured upon engaging, culturally appropriate stories that are linked to life skills. The content consists of true and fictional passages designed specifically for adults.
Lessons start with learning letter sounds and continue to multi-page stories and articles. A reading curriculum features series that are interwoven with factual life skills information, including two sections on self-empowerment and reading-with-your-child.
The app uses hand-drawn characters, sections supported by human-voice audio, interface design for dyslexia, and substantial Spanish support to broaden its accessibility. Lessons are supported with relevant learning games and music.
“The goal was not just to teach literacy, but to help engage and uplift learners, who can benefit themselves, their families and their communities. We would like all major social-service providers and adult educators to promote the app’s widespread distribution to adult learners,” explained Nedungadi.
“Use of the Amrita Learning App will increase the user’s literacy to a point where his or her learning begins to naturally increase exponentially, with increased participation in society. From there, we hope that users would feel confident to engage more fully in civic life and become more economically sufficient.”