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Ever heard of the Edulai platform? In this piece, we take a closer look into the internal bottom-up process that made Edulai a reality. With sustainability at the very heart of this approach, the importance of teamwork knowledge construction, has to be highlighted as one of the key process leading to the development of AI and Machine learning knowledge in the team.

Smarthink is a start-up from northern Italy. We are committed to design educational technology tools that create an effective and successful learning experience that helps everyone. With Edulai, the objective was to create a unique place where companies and universities could enhance the skills of their employees and students and get them ready for the job market of the future. 

How AI and Machine Learning can boost both digital and soft skills

Edulai uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to assess people’s critical thinking and communication skills through written content analysis. In addition, the software recommends content for improving the skills of its users through its Intelligent Library, a dedicated area where we carefully select and curate open educational resources. This space recommends relevant learning articles, videos or podcasts based on user’s current and potential level.

Edulai Intelligent Library contains a range of  MOOCs, OERs (open educational resources), open source resources, and other materials to build future-proof skills. It also collates resources for improving digital and soft skills, including critical thinking, teamwork, digital problem solving, proactivity and digital leadership, that can be access online without limits of time and space."

"Edulai was the result of a well-thought internal process, carried out by the whole team. In 2017, in the early stages of our activity, the idea around AI and ML was still very confusing for most people, and not understood very well. It was around that time that at we, at Smarthink, started to deepen our knowledge of AI and its functionalities, to understand its challenges – and opportunities. As a result, Edulai in its current form, basically came from the continuous exchange between the top management and its employees, who were actively involved in this back-and-forth process, and the ICT team."

In Smarthink, we strongly believe that everyone can contribute to the company values and to its products and services, and we regularly share ideas in a collaborative environment, at least once a week. 

Close collaboration brings better results and addresses obstacles

The same process was not limited to the Edulai tool development, but it was also adapted for an internal staff upskilling on AI and ML features: for example, all of Edulai’s AI functionalities and their possible outcomes were discussed in practical terms inside the team. This exercise quickly became very useful, giving us an opportunity to discuss internally new ideas and suggestions for practical implementations or tips on overcoming specific obstacles.

In addition, the Edulai skills assessment process has continuously been challenged by the team: and internal discussion helped to find ways through which AI bias can be addressed, making the tool more reliable to the wider public. In the same way, the Intelligent Library had to both be managed and operated by one colleague, who needed to know its functionalities well. Version Beta of the library is currently open to public and accessed by 500+ users nationally and internationally, both at corporate and educational level 

The exercise described above of high added value for us and for our team, helped Smarthink not only to develop a platform in some ways “already tested internally” but also to create a product that was comprehensible and well known by our team, who could easily administer and handle it when needed.

"At the same time, this helped Smarthink to upskill its internal team and to develop a simple and straightforward vocabulary between non-ICT and tech people so they can talk in the same language about Edulai, AI and ML functionalities"

Some of the soft and digital skills improved by employees referred for example to: the use of Edulai AI platform, the maintenance and use of its Library, the maintenance and use of Edulai skills assessment, and at the same time, the verbal and written communication skills of the team, the quality of teamwork and problem-solving inside the group - and finally its flexibility and adaptation to new and existing challenges. 

About the authors

Dr. Lucilla Crosta is the CEO and Co-Founder of Smarthink. She has been working in higher education since 2008 on several EU-funded research studies and since 2009 she has been involved in the e-learning and vocational training sector. She earned her Ph.D. in educational research in 2009. In recent years, she focused on her entrepreneurial skills in Smarthink with Edulai. 

Dr. Valentina Banda became part of the Smarthink team in 2018 and currently assumes the role of Marketing & Communication Specialist. She earned a Master’s Degree in business administration in 2021. 

About Smarthink 

Smarthink is a start-up company founded in 2016 by professionals in the educational and business industry, with the aim of offering a more effective online learning experience. It has been incubated by StartEd New York and Lazio Innova, and today is part of the Google Cloud for Startups Program. As of 2022, Smarthink is an official member of the EdTech Italia ecosystem, the first Italian community that protects the interests of start-ups for a quality development of the educational sector and of EFI (Italian Training Ecosystem). Edulai is the company's key platform aimed at empowering workers and adult students to develop the skills required by the job market of the future.

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