Happy New Year from Voxy!

2015 by the Numbers

As we look back on 2015, Voxy has a lot to be proud of. We’ve increased our total number of learners by 207% and have nearly tripled our total number of institutional partners.

We’re especially excited about what our learners have accomplished: In 2015, learners spent 769,248 hours learning on the Voxy platform—32,052 days-worth—and completed a whopping 16,255,694 activities. Now that’s a lot of English learning!

We want to extend a big Voxy thank you to everyone who shared in our success over the last year—we can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in 2016.

Voxy Patents Innovative Approach to Second Language Learning

Voxy Patents Innovative Approach to Second Language Learning

Voxy is proud to announce that it has received a patent for its innovative method of identifying the most appropriate keywords in a text-based resource for second language learning.

“We are thrilled to have patented our unique approach to materials creation,” said Katie Nielson, Voxy’s Chief Education Officer. “By combining our efficient, customized keyword extraction process with the review of expert humans, we can offer learners truly innovative, adaptive and personalized learning experiences.”

Voxy’s pedagogical approach to English language learning is based on decades of empirically-tested academic research, including data that show that language learners are more likely to succeed when they learn from materials that are relevant to their goals and personal interests, and aligned to their current proficiency levels.

Learning activities and materials for second language learners have traditionally been prepared manually by a teacher, textbook author or curriculum planner, then reproduced en masse. The problem with this model is that the same static materials have to serve many people, and do not address the unique needs of individual learners. Furthermore, this traditional model is extremely resource-intensive, which makes updating learning materials costly and virtually impossible to accomplish in a timely manner.

Voxy is the first and only language learning platform to address this issue by building a tool that allows curriculum developers to quickly transform authentic English-language materials into effective learning objects by automatizing the identification of the keywords that will allow a learner to better understand the meaning of a text. While keyword extraction is not a new technique, earlier approaches have been known to disregard certain words that may actually be very useful for a second language learner.

This approach is extremely beneficial for creating custom content for institutional partners, since it allows for more efficient creation of learning materials. For example, Voxy can take a business’s proprietary English-language content—such as employee training manuals or annual reports—and turn it into language learning materials for non-native English speakers. It also allows Voxy to continuously update its content library, which means learners are always studying with up-to-date resources.

Voxy’s method includes a particular focus on words that are most relevant to non-native English speakers, and collocations—common phrases or word pairings—that research has shown are important for understanding English. Once these keywords and collocations are identified using text summarization and natural language processing algorithms, the output of the algorithms is checked and approved by the curriculum development team and Voxy creates learning activities that support the specific needs of ESL students.

Voxy is also the only platform with a proprietary algorithm that considers the difficulty level and subject of each resource along with other data points, which enables Voxy to deliver learning materials that dynamically adapt to a learner’s specific needs in real time. When learners study with relevant materials tailored to their personal needs and unique challenges as a second language learner, they are much more likely to see real-world results.

From left to right: Nichole Wallace, Paul Gollash, Michael Preston, Jake Schwartz, Jonathan Harber, Stephanie Dua.

Solving the Problem of Adult Literacy

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an event focused on adult literacy here in the United States and around the world. The XPRIZE for Adult Literacy, an award program sponsored by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, is a competition designed to bring the brightest and most creative minds in education and technology together to transform the lives of low-literate adults. “What we need,” said former First Lady Barbara Bush, “is a recipe for big ideas, bold solutions and team building.”  I was thrilled to be a part of this event, and feel confident that the passionate and dedicated educators that this organization brings together are poised to have a huge impact on this significant societal problem.

Literacy is the biggest equalizer we know. —Barbara Bush

In the United States, more than 26 million adults have low literacy skills, and less than 2% of those adults have access to literacy programs. For the adult participants in programs funded by the Barbara Bush Foundation, there are often major hurdles to overcome—these individuals have an average annual income of $10,000-12,000, and typically read at less than a fifth-grade level. The issue of adult literacy is closely tied to English proficiency, not only for people living in English-speaking countries like the United States, but also for the two billion people worldwide who need to learn English for economic advancement. In New York alone, 23% of New Yorkers have limited English proficiency and about 1.6 million people don’t speak English at all.

Low literacy levels—and the need for language acquisition in general—is such a massive problem that needs tackling. English in particular is the global language of commerce, the language of the Internet and often a key driver of socio-economic advancement. When I started Voxy five years ago, I set out to create a product that would help billions of people around the world learn English more effectively and therefore give them better opportunities in tomorrow’s global job market. Today, Voxy uses cutting-edge technology and empirically-tested academic research to improve the way people learn English: We’ve lowered the cost of getting authentic, up-to-date English content, provided instruction to remote areas of the world and capitalized on the power of mobile learning to reach people who didn’t previously have access to high-quality online learning.

I’m extremely proud of what Voxy has accomplished so far, and also excited for a future where Voxy’s powerful platform can be used to support those who need to become literate in their first or second language.

To hear from the other very talented presenters on how they’re working to increase adult literacy, check out the video by clicking here.

Interested in competing to win the $7-million prize? Register your team at adultliteracy.xprize.org.

Paul Gollash is the Founder and CEO of Voxy.

Paul Gollash is the Founder and CEO of Voxy.


Voxy Wins 2015 WebAward

Voxy Wins Outstanding Website Award

Voxy is pleased to announce that it has received an Outstanding Website award for its web application from the 2015 WebAward Competition.

Now in its 17th year, the WebAward program is the longest-running annual website award competition and recognizes excellence in website development across 96 industries.

Voxy operates on a fully integrated web and mobile platform to give adult learners the flexibility they need to fit studying into their busy schedules, and it syncs across devices so learners can move seamlessly between the web-based platform and mobile app to pick up wherever they left off. Voxy also offers a proprietary online proficiency assessment and private and group tutoring sessions through a live, in-product video-chat platform for a comprehensive blended-learning experience.

“Voxy’s goal is to build a website that can accommodate the range of features necessary for English learning in a streamlined, accessible way,” said Manuel Morales, Voxy VP of Product. “We are thrilled to have won this award, which validates our approach.”

To see the full list of WebAward winners, please visit www.webaward.org.


Voxy Expands Partnership with Grundfos

Voxy recently expanded its partnership with Grundfos to become the company’s recommended English learning provider.

Grundfos is one of the world’s largest pump manufacturers, with 90 locations around the world and approximately 17,000 employees. The company offers a range of benefits through an internal learning and development program, which has included a distance English learning course since September 2014. As part of its initial offering last year, Grundfos launched a highly successful Voxy pilot with 25 employees, which exceeded engagement goals during a 6-month period and resulted in an overall proficiency gain for the group of a 7.5% score improvement.

After test-driving Voxy as well as another product in search of an optimal solution, Grundfos announced in Spring 2015 that Voxy will be its recommended English learning provider going forward. Because Grundfos has such a broad global reach, many employees are not native English speakers and could benefit greatly from Voxy’s personalized online courses.

“We like the responsiveness towards program customizations catering for our needs and are very satisfied with the service level provided by Voxy,” said Gunnar Tindborg, L&D Manager at Grundfos.

Grundfos employees now have the ability to enroll in a 6- or 12-month Voxy course, with the added option of private tutoring for one-on-one practice with a certified English instructor. Voxy has also created a custom manufacturing unit for more targeted industry-specific language learning, which is available to all Voxy learners. The unit includes authentic materials sourced by the Voxy Pedagogy Team as well as corporate materials provided by Grundfos, including instructional videos and articles from the company’s in-house publication G Magazine.

“Voxy’s ability to integrate with partners’ organizational programming, as well as provide specific, relevant instruction, is a key feature of our relationships with world-class partners like Grundfos,” said Voxy Chief of Operations Juan Torres.