New innovative mobile app to improve literacy skills given the go-ahead

We’re pleased to announce that Bridgend College has begun the first stages of development of a brand new app that aims to help vocational learners improve their writing skills, through the use of an in-app reward system. 

Supported by a VocTech Seed grant from Ufi VocTech Trust, ‘Marco’ is a tool that students will be able to download onto their mobiles to help them improve their spelling and grammar. This is achieved through gamifying the writing process and incentivising improvement with in-app rewards. Marco will analyse the user’s written work to provide feedback on their mistakes and then awards points based on the overall quality of the work. Users then receive digital badges and level up as their skills improve, and are encouraged to correct their mistakes to earn more rewards. In the future, it is hoped that as users engage with Marco it will be able to use their common mistakes to provide relevant support and games that can help them to improve further.

In September 2019, Pete Dunford, an Animal Care lecturer at Bridgend College, the first college in Wales to become a Google Reference College, was selected by Google for Education to become one of their Certified Innovators. This highly competitive international programme consists of approximately 2,200 Certified Innovators globally and Pete is only the second to be selected from Wales. As part of this programme, Pete participated in a three-day Innovator Academy at the Google offices in Stockholm with 35 other Innovators. Together they learned about the importance of user-centric design, rapid ideation and failing fast to solve problems. It was through this process that the concept for Marco was born.

Following an initial focus group, a survey was conducted with190 students to explore how they already interact with existing spelling and grammar tools. Results revealed that 21.1% of students admitted to rarely or never using a spell-checker, whilst only 31.6% claimed that they always used a spell-checker on their work. However, when asked if these students would download and use Marco if it were available, only 5.3% said they wouldn’t.

“People are increasingly using their mobile devices in all aspects of their day-to-day life and we’re confident that, with Marco, we have a huge opportunity here to motivate learners and help them to improve their essential literacy skills in a new and appealing way.” 

It is hoped that learners who gain more confidence in their writing will be capable of achieving higher grades in their qualification and can then carry these skills with them into the workplace.

It is expected that Marco will be available to download from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store from Summer 2021. 

Ufi VocTech Trust are a grant funding organisation who champion the power of digital technology to improve skills for work.

Ufi’s next funding call is VocTech Seed which offers £15k to £50k for early-stage ideas that use tech to improve vocational education.

VocTech Seed is open for applications from 21st January to 11th February 2021. Find out more at ufi.co.uk/seed