May 23, 2019

Harnessing the Power of IA to Help Students Become Better Readers with Quillionz

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

Effective and critical reading is a key skill in any field. Even if you do not explicitly teach reading strategies and skills, chances are your students have to engage with written content in a multitude of ways (course notes, mandatory readings, research, etc.). In order to get the most out of the documents they are asked to read, students often need guidance to identify important information and to understand why it is useful. In an educational context where time is often a luxury for students and teachers alike, Quillionz, a platform using the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to generate comprehension questions from a text, can efficiently help you provide such guidance.

What Makes a Good Reader?

It comes as no surprise that there is no magic involved in being a “good” reader; effective reading is based on a number of strategies focused around identifying main ideas and using critical thinking to establish logical relationships and make inferences. During reading, this is mostly based on readers asking themselves meaningful questions while engaging with the textual matter in a structured manner.

Teaching students to ask themselves the right questions is not always an easy feat, as each document is different and comes with its own set of challenges. Preparing meaningful comprehension questions or discussion topics that allow students to validate and consolidate their understanding of a text is a time-consuming endeavour. This is where an artificial intelligence-powered platform, such as Quillionz, can bring added value:

  • It increases teachers’ efficiency when producing learning materials.
  • It has the potential to train students to ask themselves the right questions.

What Does Quillionz Offer?

In a nutshell, Quillionz – which prides itself in being the world’s first platform driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to generate text-based quizzes – creates multiple-choice, gap fill, and short descriptive questions based on a text ranging between 300 and 3,000 words. Although any type of text can be used, the developers warn that it works best with descriptive content. This means that literature (e.g., poetry, short stories) or content requiring in-depth interpretation (e.g., legal texts) may not work very well with Quillionz. However, the best way to find out is simply by running a text through the algorithm, which takes mere seconds.

After setting up a free account (using email, Facebook or Google login credentials), using Quillionz is a quick and easy 3-step process:

  1. Copy and past text content into the editor window. Click Proceed.

    Text to be analyzed is copied in the editor field.

  2. After the platform has finished analyzing the text, it suggests a list of keywords it considers important for question creation. Select/deselect keywords or add your own, then click Proceed.

    Keywords identified by the platform can easily be selected or deselected to guide the analysis.

  3. Review the content identified as problematic by the editor. This may include opaque pronoun references, sentence fragments, etc. You may fix these issues or choose to ignore then. Click Get Question Ideas to complete the process.

    Passages that contain potential problems for AI analysis are highlighted and can be fixed before generating questions.

  4. Once a set of questions has been generated, you can curate it by editing or omitting suggested questions. You can then download the questions as a .txt file, so you can use them in a print or electronic document or publish them as a QuilliQuiz. This module allows you to create self-graded quizzes directly on the Quillionz platform.

    Once analysis is complete, the platform generates gap fill, multiple choice and short answer questions.

How Can Quillionz Serve as a Learning Tool?

Artificial Intelligence is a quickly evolving field that has not yet reached its full maturity. Similar to how Google Translate cannot yet flawlessly translate an entire text, you should not expect Quillionz to automatically generate pitch-perfect comprehension quizzes without any human intervention. However, from a pedagogical perspective, this can actually be an advantage. Indeed, the platform can prove to be an interesting tool to help students develop reading strategies and make sense of a text:

  • As a teacher, you can analyze a text you intend to make your students read. Examining the keywords the platform suggests as well as the questions it generates will give you insight into the perceived main ideas. Do they correspond to the information you wish your students to take away from the text? These observations may inform how you work with the text. Of course, you can also tweak and use the generated comprehension questions.
  • The platform can be used as a modeling tool, more specifically by pinpointing the limitations of the AI-powered analysis to increase students’ awareness of the need for critical thinking and the types of questions to ask themselves while reading.
  • Students can use the platform to analyze a text they have to read. Asking them to comment on the pertinence of the keywords and the quality of the questions generated will activate their metacognitive thinking as they set out to explain why they believe questions are relevant or not, and how they can be improved. The shortcomings in the artificial intelligence can thus become a perfect pedagogical excuse to foster critical thinking!
  • As part of a peer-teaching approach, students can research texts or use their own assignments or presentation transcripts to generate questions to quiz fellow students on the subject matter.

Exploring the Pedagogical Potential of Quillionz

As the platform is quick and easy to use, using a test in the discipline you teach is the best way to find out how Quillionz might serve you in your teaching approaches. A brief video overview is also available.

All of the features and pedagogical uses described in this article are available with the free version of Quillionz, which is limited to the analysis of 5 texts per day. This is sufficient for classroom use, as each student can create their own free account. A paid Pro plan is also available and allows for additional question types, unlimited analysis and an ad-free experience.

About the author

Andy Van Drom

Andy Van Drom has been teaching English as a second language and linguistics since 2005, first at Université Laval and then, since 2012, at Cégep Limoilou. After completing doctoral studies in Linguistics (Université Laval), he obtained a second master’s degree, in Higher Education Pedagogy (Performa, Université de Sherbrooke). With the aim of supporting inclusive teaching practices and fostering student success, his focus is on the role of language mindset in learner motivation. Andy has published 4 ESL textbooks with Pearson ERPI as well as several open educational resources in digital format. His keen interest in pedagogy led him to work with Profweb (now Eductive) in 2017 and with the AQPC in 2021, 2 mandates that are still ongoing. His desire to innovate in pedagogy has earned him an AQPC Honourable Mention, a Forces Avenir Award and the EF Excellence Award in Language Teaching.

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