Delivros Orell Füssli interviews the Smartest Learning founders

Find the original article “Interview: Wie die Smartest App aus Lerninhalten automatisch Übungsfragen erstellt» in German on delivros orell füssli

For your interest we have translated this interview in English.

The Smartest app turns learning documents into interactive quiz questions. The app combines computer vision with Natural Language Processing to extract content from documents and automatically create questions from it. An interview with the founders.

In conversation are Mehdi Cherif-Zahar (pictured left) and Steve Hinske (pictured right), founders of education start up Smartest Learning AG. Welcome to the conversation. Right up front, what is and what can the Smartest App do?

The Smartest App allows users – typically learners and teachers – to generate interactive exercises from their own materials very quickly and easily. One simply uploads the material or takes a photo and selects the exercise formats and the app automatically generates different formats and questions for the user to choose from according to their personal learning style. This allows the focus to be on learning rather than material preparation.

What innovation does Smartest bring to the table?

Smartest brings a number of innovations: First, we use computer vision to extract content from documents and offer an innovative user interface to create exercises so users can focus on the content. Second, we use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to analyse context and content and automatically generate questions and answer choices. Furthermore, the app uses a combination of progress analysis and gamification to make the learning experience purposeful and at the same time varied.

How did the idea for the Smartest App come about?

We met in an MBA program and already worked very well together there. We found that we not only complemented each other very well professionally, but also shared a strong need to get something of our own off the ground. This motivation, combined with a general passion for education and technology, led to the decision to found Smartest about a year and several brainstorming sessions later.

Learning often has to do with motivation – how do you motivate students to learn?

Motivation – like learning itself – is very individual. Yet teaching formats are often focused on frontal instruction and ‘one-size-fits-all’. Greater individualization of learning and exercise formats would be ideal, but is often not possible for practical reasons, especially lack of time. With Smartest, we make it possible to create new exercises in seconds and adapt them to the learning style and speed of the learners. In addition, gamification can help make learning more engaging and interesting, especially when combined with individualized and exploratory learning paths that encourage and challenge student autonomy.

What are the features of the app?

With the Smartest app it is possible to create different exercise formats (multiple choice questions, sorting tasks, categorization exercises, etc.) from all kinds of documents such as images, PDFs, videos. The exercise formats can be shared with classes and learning groups, furthermore, learning progress can be tracked and difficulty and style of the exercises can be adjusted to the own needs. Additional features such as creating exercises from handwritten documents are already planned. The app is available for web, iOS, and Android, enabling flexible learning on almost any device – anytime, anywhere.

Who is the app suitable for?

The Smartest app is aimed at all learners and teachers who want to make practice more effective, personalized and varied. The current focus is on knowledge acquisition, for example learning vocabulary, definitions, or facts. Medical students benefit from Smartest just as much as secondary school students or participants in professional development programs. We are also working towards a version that also allows open-ended and transfer questions.

Is there already interest/feedback?

We currently have several hundred users using our initial September 2020 version. We have also conducted pilot projects with several schools to test the concept and gather feedback. Since then, we have been working at full speed on our second version, which we will soon make available to schools as a B2B version, and to the general public as a B2C version a little later. We already have hundreds more registrations for this.

What have you already achieved with Smartest?

When we started in 2019, our big goal for 2020 was to have a first functional version of the app and first pilot customers, as well as to close a funding round. We were able to achieve both goals. In addition, we were finalists in several start-up competitions (e.g. Swiss Innovation Challenge), won several awards at the Best of Swiss Apps Awards and are funded by InnoSuisse. But we are especially proud of the very positive feedback from many of our users.

Where do we go from here?

The B2B version is currently in an advanced development phase and is now being tested by the first schools. We are already taking orders from schools. Those interested in the B2C version can be notified via our website for the go live.

Thank you very much for the exciting conversation.