Rising Academies: RORI

Using conversational AI to increase accessibility to education and address student learning loss in West Africa

An estimated 617m school-age children around the world finish primary school without having attained basic mastery of literacy and numeracy. Even before Covid-19, schools in these countries were struggling to provide students with the quality of education they deserve. Prolonged school closures have exacerbated that problem by 25% or more. This is Rising Academies motivation for building Rori.

Founded in Sierra Leone in 2014, Rising Academies is an educational b-corporation that is focused on tackling this crisis. With a mission to create schools that open doors and change lives, it provides curriculums, teacher coaching and actionable data to help teachers and school leaders bring quality to every classroom.

It owns and operates its own low-cost private schools in West Africa, then works with governments and other partners to improve the quality of their schools at scale. Today, Rising Academies serves more than 250,000 students in schools across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana.

When the challenge of providing access to quality education across Africa was significantly intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic, we partnered with Rising Academies to help address the growing issue of student learning loss through conversational AI.

Implementation

With children shut out of school during the pandemic, Rising Academies launched its Rising On Air program to deliver free, downloadable, ready-to-air radio scripts. The program – which covers literacy, language arts and numeracy – was translated into 12 languages and reached upwards of 12 million children.

With our expertise in enterprise-grade conversational AI and machine learning technology, our objective was to augment the Rising On Air program. We did this by building an AI-powered chatbot and recommendation engine to deliver content directly to users’ phones. Rising on Air Interactive – ‘RORI’ for short – helps children boost their maths skills by providing access to the right curriculum topics for their level, in the right sequence, via both text and audio.

The recommendation engine sits on top of Rising Academy’s library of structured curriculum content, which includes 500 hours of audio content. Using conversational AI, it pulls text and audio clips from this library tailored to the needs of individual students. This provides each child with a personalised, dynamic playlist for learning.

We also delivered a dedicated management platform designed to let Rising Academies staff monitor, scale and develop the chatbot itself. With the EBM platform, the team was able to manage the full chatbot lifecycle, access advanced analytics and seamlessly integrate new content.

RORI-Mockup

Results

Rising is currently seeing encouraging results for RORI with the students in their schools in Ghana, who have played a key contributing role in the design process. Rising hopes to take these lessons and scale the tool to millions of children in West Africa and beyond in the coming years.

The project with Rising Academies was also named as one of 18 winning entries in the ‘Futures Forum on Learning: Tools Competition’. The competition was set up and sponsored by Schmidt Futures and Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin to accelerate pandemic-related learning recovery and advance the field of learning engineering.

“The impact of Covid-19 on education in disadvantaged regions such as Africa is truly a crisis that we can’t afford to ignore,” said, George Cowell, International Director from Rising Academies. “To address the global learning crisis we need to build tools that can replicate the best teaching and learning practises, in an accessible, engaging and low-cost way. Combining our understanding of content and pedagogy with Filament’s expertise in AI, has helped us create a tool which can deliver low-cost tutoring at a fraction of the normal costs. This is incredibly exciting, and we’re looking forward to seeing how many students Rori can reach”

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