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  • Writer's pictureNirmal Patel

Using Natural Language Processing for Educational Activities

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

Natural Language Process technology has opened a new gate of innovation in digital education. NLP is seeing increasing adoption in online literacy programs. It also has a great potential for impact in print programs, where the printed materials are crafted with the aid of AI. Today, NLP is being used in education for various tasks such as essay grading and feedback, question generation, example generation, and so on. More and more advanced NLP technologies are coming out, and many of them are open source (e.g. the latest Transformer NLP technology has several open-source models). We are also seeing that neural technologies are much more accurate to carry out human-like tasks on the natural language data. Here are some interesting potential applications of the NLP technology in education:

  1. Personalized Reading Plans: By using NLP technology, we can give students reading materials that are more suited for their level. NLP algorithms can compute the reading difficulties of open text data from the internet, and we can easily build software to give leveled reading materials to the students.

  2. Feedback on Essays: Platforms like OpenAI are now enabling everyone to build systems that give human-like feedback on student essays. So the software can give immediate formative feedback to the student. Training these systems would require some ingenuity with data collection, but if done in the right way, it can lead to very innovative applications that reduce teacher workload.

  3. Question Generation: We can generate various types of assessment questions from passages of learning materials. Although this is a very new area, scientific studies have established norms for evaluating the Question Generation Models (see Mostow et. al) and there are various companies that have attempted to do this commercially.

  4. Example Generation: NLP enables us to generate content, given some input data. We can utilize this power of the technology, and do things such as generate worked examples of math problems, generate sentences that show different usages of the same word, show examples of how text can be summarized, etc.

Do you have an idea for how we can use NLP in education? Or a question about whether something is possible or not? Feel free to share your notes in the comments.

Thank you for reading!

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