Rising Academy’s Rori AI Chatbot: “It has built my confidence”
Last spring, Victor Appiah, a school leader at Rising Academy – Omega in Ghana, introduced Rising Academies’ ‘Rori’ AI-powered chatbot to his third grade students. For many students, this was their first time using a smartphone, and the excitement has been palpable. “They’re loving it,” Appiah said.
Rori operates via the low-bandwidth messaging app Whatsapp on a desktop or phone. “All you really need are a mobile internet connection and a $20 phone,” said Owen Henkel, lead researcher for Rori, explaining the founders’ eye toward accessibility.
With the support of funding from the Learning Engineering Virtual Institute (LEVI), Rising Academies’ updated Rori chatbot has been used by over 40,000 students. By 2027, they estimate that more than one million students will be using Rori.
The math-focused Chat bot gives different activities, prompting a hint when necessary. The second iteration of the bot includes photographs as well as text on screen. “If the kid gets off track… the chatbot is able to acknowledge and redirect,” Henkel said.
“When I make a mistake, it makes me try again and again until I get a correct answer, or if I cannot, it will give me the answer and give me a different question,” said Christiano Menseh, a student at Rising Academy – Omega.
“As a school leader Rori has been of great help,” Appiah explained. “It has opened my mind on how AI could be helpful to me as a school leader. It has built my confidence and helped my enrollment drive.”
Like many educators, Appiah noted that it’s difficult to teach students who are at such different levels – with both technology and mathematics skills. One benefit of Rori is that it allows students to advance at their own pace, which means that the chatbot contributes to “equity in class” by helping students at different levels of achievement, Appiah said.
In turn, he’s seen a boost in metrics of his students’ math performance. When the students took their baseline test, the average score was 73.85% – but the midline average jumped up to 81.88%, Appiah said.
In fact, during the first year of LEVI, Rising Academies ran an experiment showing that students using Rori scored 11 percentage points higher in math than those not using Rori. As part of the study, the team compared results from students (N=1,000) equally split into a treatment and control group from 11 Rising Academies schools in Ghana.
Beyond these promising early results, Appiah said parents in the community have welcomed the new technology and are pleased by their childrens’ success, too. “Parents are really excited because we’re in a computer age. [Information Technology] is what is ruling the world. When parents see [their children] solving questions on smartphones with Rori, a mass tutor, for free, where students are able to interact with the chatbots, parents are very happy about that,” Appiah said. “After the pilot, some parents acquired phones for kids to use at home so they could use Rori, and others made phones available to use Rori at home.”