The Academy of Finland is funding the DigiTala project 2019-2023, which is conducted in collaboration between the University of Helsinki, the University of Jyväskylä and Aalto University (helsinki.fi/en/digitala). The leaders responsible for the research project are Assistant Professor Raili Hildén from the University of Helsinki (collaboration with schools and collaborators), University Lecturer Mikko Kuronen from the University of Jyväskylä (speech analysis and training for human raters) and Professor Mikko Kurimo from Aalto University (automatic speech recognition and automatic assessment).
The purpose is to investigate how oral language skills in foreign languages can be assessed in large-scale and high-stakes language tests such as the Finnish Matriculation Examination. The applications also allow students to practise pronunciation and speaking on their own. The study focuses in particular on the assessment of pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and fluency in second and foreign languages.
The first versions of the applications are intended for Finnish upper secondary students who study Swedish or Finnish as a second national language. Later, applications may be developed to evaluate other foreign languages. It is important that as many students as possible participate in the research, as the machine itself cannot evaluate students’ speech, but must be taught to do so.
Speech samples are not sufficient, but comments from teachers and human raters are also required. Using the students’ speech samples and human ratings, the machine learns to better recognise what the students are saying and how people rate different speech samples and speech samples at different levels.
We also test the automated feedback provided by the machine. It is important for us to know whether the assessments given by the machine are fair to teachers and students. We also study, for example, whether the feedback received from the machine is perceived as useful and understandable. Towards the end of the project, we will also study the usability of the tool.
The students’ names, dates of birth and schools are removed from the research material before the analysis phase. The privacy notice is available on DigiTala’s website.
For more information on the research, please contact: Raili Hildén, +358504482514, firstname.lastname@example.org
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