In honour of the anniversary of the UN’s International Arabic Language Day, students at Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science at the Israel Institute of Technology, the Technion, have joined forces with "Madrasa", a socio-community-technological project. They've joined forces to develop an app to help users learn Arabic. The students partake in a course called “Industrial Projects” under the guidance of Professor Alex Bronstein, which focuses on cooperation with industries, and also leads to collaborations with various social organizations.
Madrasa is a free-to-use socio-community-technological project that advocates for better communication in Israeli society through spoken Arabic courses. It promotes Arabic learning through a platform that includes free online courses, extensive activity through digital channels, and many different collaborations, with more than 100,000 students currently enrolled in their courses. Yet, according to the founder and director of Madrasa, Gilad Sevitt, during their seven years of operations, so many people have been wondering why they don’t have an app to help their students practice their arabic-speaking proficiency. And so, the collaboration idea began.
The app and its components were developed by students Mahmod Yaseen, Rajeh Ayashe, Noor Hamdan, Rina Atieh, Lina Mansour, and Wadad Boulos. They created an effective infrastructure for bots to have conversations with students in spoken Arabic. The bot essentially teaches students how to pronounce words and have conversations on an array of topics. Though the conversations are written by Madrasa's pedagogical team, the students developed an editor that directs the level of conversation and content according to the knowledge gained by each student in the online courses. The students involved in the collaboration were required to not only initially develop the app, but also deal with and adjustments, glitches and bugs that might occur in the future.
"Working with the students was very effective and helpful. They came on board and contributed greatly to our project, and we enjoyed working together on both the linguistic and technological levels. With their help, we were able to develop a voice recognition component that will finally allow tens of thousands of students in our online courses to practice their pronunciation in Arabic and speak while learning," Gilad Sevitt, founder and director of Madrasa.
The app will upgrade the students’ learning experience, provide alerts, and serve as the basis for many other developments, such as mobile games and more. It is expected to be released on Beta in the coming months. Collaboration amongst different faculties and students poses huge potential for both the tech markets and social organizations across Israel. These students, along with Madrasa, are leading the way, and will hopefully encourage others to do the same.