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What Scholarcy Has Taught Me

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Jessica Rachid
4 min read

It has nearly been a year since I started writing for Scholarcy and learning more about AI and assistive technologies. After finishing my postgraduate degree in Comparative Literature from King’s College London, I have worked in the tech start-up sector, mainly in customer success, content creation, marketing, and communications. But working with Scholarcy has been the highlight of my career so far, as I have learnt how to use AI software to improve the quality of my work, read more effectively and understand complex information faster. As I was a neurodivergent student, I understood the challenges faced by people who struggle with traditional learning methods. As a result, I’m a strong advocate of the use of technologies, like Scholarcy to tailor educational experiences and support diverse learning needs, helping more students succeed.

Most recently, I have been lucky enough to sit down with the Scholarcy team, from the Founder, Phil Gooch to the Co-Founder, Emma Warren-Jones as well as the Customer Support and Community Manager, Oliver Back. Here are some of the highlights from our conversations.

Emma Warren-Jones on Assistive Technologies

EWJ: For students with learning difficulties, Scholarcy helps by breaking down long texts into bitesize pieces and lets you export your summaries and notes to a Word document or a PowerPoint. It has helped countless students, not only with their reading but their understanding of a text, helping them get to grips with a new subject and apply what they have learnt with more confidence. It’s been rewarding to see how Scholarcy has taken off in the assistive technology space in just a couple of years.

Scholarcy helps students to structure their thoughts, to get them to the point of writing an essay. The web app is not and it will never be a shortcut to writing an essay or a dissertation. Instead, our goal is to facilitate the reading experience and to help students understand and assimilate this complex information easily. We have used third-party large language models, like OpenAI API to create an enhanced version of the extracted summary and let users choose from a range of styles and formats that work best for them.

Phil Gooch on Inclusive Education

PG: We didn’t set out with the sole goal of helping students with neurodiverse attributes. We wanted to explore what was possible technically with Scholarcy. What information can we pull out of a document? Wouldn’t it be cool to create an abstract using AI? So I was more focused on what we could deconstruct and reconstruct using large language models.

It was serendipity when a company called, Assistive Solutions got in touch and informed us that Scholarcy was great for neurodiverse students because of the way it broke down information without overwhelming the user. Our Flashcard gives users a little bit of information at a time, and they can gradually learn bit by bit.

I built something that I found useful, and I thought if I found it helpful, maybe other students would as well.

Last year, we hired Oliver Back, our Customer Support and Community Manager, and he has done a fantastic job organising our support channel and creating videos, training manuals, and webinars. His background was working as a Specialist in Autism Mentor and Assistive Technology Trainer. Before joining our team, he trained people on how to use Scholarcy, who had ADHD, or autism. Oliver is good at telling us what users need or find useful when using the software.

Oliver Back on Building Accessible Tools

OB: Scholarcy gives students a tool that can help them retain information more easily by controlling how much information they are exposed to at any one time.

Users with dyslexia, for example, find a big wall of text inaccessible. By using Scholarcy they tell us that they find reading less stressful and daunting.

An important improvement that I’ve seen since I’ve been working at Scholarcy is the adjustment of the text width in the Flashcard. If you have dyslexia, ADHD, or autism, and you find a big wall of text inaccessible. So having the amount of text on the screen reduced means that you can see the width of the text, and you do not have to turn your head to read it. One of the major problems for dyslexic readers is going from one end of the sentence to the start of the next line, and not skipping some reading.

What I have learnt by talking with Emma, Phil and Oliver, is the potential for this type of technology to facilitate and reinforce learning, not only for students from neurodiverse backgrounds but universally.

Giving students with learning difficulties greater access to tools like Scholarcy can also bring wider benefits, for example, reduced anxiety, better engagement with academia, and improved motivation.

Scholarcy can help users with autism, ADHD, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other neurodiverse conditions, including cognitive function difficulties, dysgraphia, or Tourette’s syndrome. As I was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, and I could not read or write until the age of eleven, I completely understand how hard it is to pursue an education without feeling defined by a learning difficulty. That is why I believe in Scholarcy, and the achievements Phil and his team have made in building software that makes learning more accessible for all.