Colo. – University of Colorado researchers have created on-demand,
voice-activated apps to enhance learning and teaching for members of CU
Anschutz Medical Campus and CU Denver.
(VoxScholar.com) has released its first two apps, CU Study Skills and CU
Faculty Development. These apps make it possible for faculty and students to
talk to Google Assistant to receive study tips or to get information on faculty
is an initiative funded by the CU Department of Medicine and was developed by
faculty from the CU Anschutz School of Medicine and the CU Denver College of
Engineering and Applied Science.
multiple voice-activated platforms exist, using the Google Assistant platform
allows for the creation of higher education apps without extensive and costly
infrastructure investment. Students and faculty using the apps can use devices
they already own, including cell phones. This approach to academic innovation
helps keep higher education affordable, responsive and relevant.
goal of the project was to leverage technology everyone had in their pocket – a
cell phone – to transform learning,” said Janet Corral, PhD, associate
professor of medicine, who leads the project. “Our busy learners and faculty
are working in multiple sites: campuses and clinics, homes and offices, in the
city and in rural communities. Often, they need just-in-time access to
information and cannot wait until the next time they are on campus for
The VoxScholar apps provide more than other
voice-activated apps, which typically offer information on campus meals or
laundry services. VoxScholar’s apps focus on academic performance by offering
improved study skills or evidence-based teaching advice. For example, students
can get timely, practical tips on how to handle multiple choice questions or
manage time during an exam. Faculty can get advice on leading small group
sessions or improving learner engagement.
Corral is a scholar in the Department of
for Academic Clinician Educators (PACE), which launched in 2017 and provides grants to
support faculty in developing and improving innovative educational programs,
and in engaging in educational research to guide how we teach and assess health
Suzanne Brandenburg, MD, vice chair for
education in the Department of Medicine, said, “Dr. Corral’s innovative work
has the potential to transform medical education. I’m delighted that our unique
PACE program has provided her the resources, time and mentorship needed to
achieve this milestone.”
collaborated with the CU Denver Department
of Computer Science and Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied
Science to develop VoxScholar. Assistant Professor Farnoush Banaei-Kashani, PhD, an expert in
intelligent and large-scale data-driven systems, along with his PhD student,
Javier Pastorino, worked with Corral to develop these apps.
“We have introduced novel ideas based on
machine learning and text mining to make the apps smart,” said
Banaei-Kashani. “For instance, the apps can capture and use the context of the
conversation with the learner or faculty member and personalize the tips it
VoxScholar apps innovate by relying on artificial intelligence. The apps are designed to send specific
tips based on the specific student’s needs. Similarly, educators offering
lecture-based programming in a classroom setting receive different tips than
faculty teaching in a hospital or other clinical setting.
“The spaces where we work and study are
complex, and I wanted the apps to do better than our existing fact-based
learning modules and tips sheets. My goal was to create apps that respond
just-in-time to what people need, and, furthermore, help coach them to
success,” said Corral. Both apps have been developed in consultation with
academic leaders, faculty and students. Students and faculty have also beta
tested the apps prior to release.
apps are available for free through the Google Play store, but require an
official affiliation with CU Anschutz Medical Campus or CU Denver to access the
content. VoxScholar plans to release additional apps throughout the spring and
summer as students return to the health professions programs on both campuses.