H5P, meet AI: Trying out Nolej AI

AI, in the form of ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, has received lots of attention lately. I’ve been skeptical of its usefulness for language teaching, but this week I took a look at the Nolej AI project: it proposes to use AI to create H5P exercises, based on educational content. Since I’m a big fan of H5P and use it extensively the Russian Grammar Library, this definitely caught my eye. I decided to give it a try, asking it to create exercises based on my video on secondary imperfectives in Russian.

Nolej asks you to choose the language of the source before generating a package, so I didn’t expect it to manage the mix of Russian examples and English explanations in the video. The Russian did show up in Nolej’s best attempt at transcription (огораживать appeared as “agarajavat”), except for one word that mysteriously appeared in the correct Russian spelling (перезванивать). Obviously, this would require extensive editing of the exercises generated, something which may be less of an issue with videos in a single language. Nolej is apparently working on other languages in addition to English, to become available in coming months.

The transcription of the English was very good, as was the final summary.

The questions generated were a mix of true/false, flashcard, fill in the blanks, and multiple choice; for many, checkboxes provide a choice of format (flashcard, MCQ, or both). For certain types of content, this could absolutely be a real time saver; editing the questions and answers (or deleting undesired questions) is straightforward. 

Nolej emphasizes how much time could be saved by using their tool (“per package generated …  up to 20 hours of work”). There’s no doubt that pointing their tool at a video (or pdf, or web page) to create an H5P package was much faster than creating a set of H5P exercises “by hand.” Still, we need to keep in mind the time required to check and edit the materials.

And it’s very clear that this is AI, not a thinking human being. The “Concepts” section (marked as beta) provided a paragraph describing selected topics from the video, with the option of choosing topics to add to a glossary, and serve as the basis for flashcard or games (crossword, drag the word, find the word). Most explanations were a mix of accurate and inaccurate information, similar to experiences I’ve had with chatGPT. 

But I should thank the Concepts section for providing my first big laugh of the day. Some quick background: many Russian textbooks cover the “7-letter spelling rule,” which states that after these seven letters: к г х ш щ ч ж, we use the letter и in place of the letter ы. The video mentioned this in passing, but in the Concepts section, Nolej took the 7-letter rule and ran with it. It’s worth quoting the entire explanation:

“The Seven Letter Spelling Rule is a rule that states that words should be spelled with seven letters. This rule applies to all words, regardless of their origin or language. It is important to note that this rule does not apply to proper nouns, such as names, places, or organizations. The Seven Letter Spelling Rule is based on the idea that words should be spelled in a consistent manner, making them easier to read and understand. This rule is often used in educational settings, such as in spelling tests and other language-related activities. Additionally, this rule is often used in the publishing industry, as it helps to ensure that words are spelled correctly and consistently.”

Who knew I’ve been teaching it wrong all these years? Not to mention neglecting it when writing in English!

Regrets, readers – allways writing evthing sevvenn letters English diffclt!

Seriously, though: despite my general curmudgeonly skepticism about AI, I do think Nolej AI has potential for teachers – as long as you allow time for careful checking. An interesting question will be whether the time saved creating exercises is greater than the time spent editing. For some, that may well be the case. And perhaps in the future, it will be reliable enough for learners to generate their own exercise sets from materials that interest them. At the moment, though, Nolej AI (like chatGPT and Bard) generates too many inaccuracies that learners may not catch.

A free trial of 5 packages (and additional information on pricing) is available at the Nolej AI site.

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