In September 2017, after months of preparation and development, ACTNext was pleased to launch the much-anticipated Educational Companion app pilot study.

ACTNext Educational Companion was developed as a personalized learning system that guides the students through their educational journey. The Educational Companion is built on a mobile platform to allow access to students anytime, anywhere, as a good companion would do.

The purpose of the pilot test is to collect data from the participating students about the usage of the app, about the metrics about the use of resources from OpenEd, and the students’ perceptions about the engagement levels of the app.

Researchers will study student engagement and examine usage data in conjunction with the students results from the ACT tests that they took previously (ACT Test, the ACT WorkKeys).

Another goal of this pilot study is to ascertain the degree to which providing students with targeted resources can help improve their ACT test scores. The ACTNext team is most interested in examining the factors associated with levels of student engagement.

ACTNext team members Alina von Davier, Steve Polyak, Kurt Peterschmidt, Laura Frisby, and Michael Yudelson traveled to Clinton High School in Greenville, SC to introduce the ACTNext Educational Companion app to school administrators, parents, and the 98 junior and senior level students involved with the Carolina Alliance for Technology (CAT) participating in the pilot study. In addition to beta-access to the app, students received a voucher to retake the ACT test so that ACTNext scientists can compare pre- and post-test results, along with collecting and analyzing user data.

Next, ACTNext researchers will analyze the data collected and will make recommendations for the development and improvment of the Educational Companion, while technologists on the team will focus particularly redesigning different aspeccts of the app based on students’ feedback.

For ACTNext, the most exciting aspect of the pilot study is the opportunity it provided to the Clinton High School students with personalized resources; the team’s goal for the Educational Companion is to strike the perfect balance between an adaptive learning tool tailored to the personalized needs of each student, while also remaining interesting and engaging to work with.

ACTNext Lead Architect Kurt Peterschmidt described the effort to develop Companion as aiming to enhance the student learning experience by connecting “students with resources that are far more personalized and far more targeted towards their additional needs. Ultimately, the goal is to create a continuous feedback loop to regularly update what [we] know about the student and what they need to work on, as far as their skills.”

Although ACTNext team members introduced Educational Companion and the pilot study to Clinton High School, Kurt highlights the development of the app is an ongoing company-wide effort, requiring the collaboration and coordination of key personnel within many other departments at ACT.

True to its name, Companion is the product of a dedicated group of visionaries, researchers, and technologists working together to make tomorrow’s tools for learning and assessment available today.