Lucy Vanderwende and Sumit Basu

Microsoft Research

Making Reading More Effective: Technologies to Help Information Seekers

Despite the best efforts of video-based courseware, those of us who deal with information on a daily basis won't be freed from the task of reading anytime soon. In this talk, we will describe several efforts directed towards making reading more effective - when users are reading to learn, how can we help them best use their time for this task? We are investigating this area along three axes: improving mastery, improving coverage, and improving engagement. We will focus today on helping the user gain mastery via the "mastery loop," in which the user is assessed on their knowledge and then directed to focus attention where their knowledge is weakest. In particular, we have been working on technologies to automate both question generation [1] and the grading of the students' answers. Our goal is to provide these tools for arbitrary topics in order to support both traditional educational scenarios as well as lifelong learning. We will also give a brief overview of some recent and future work on the other axes of improving coverage (knowing what you've read and what to read next) as well as improving engagement (getting people to read more).

[1] Lee Becker, Sumit Basu, and Lucy Vanderwende. "Mind the Gap: Learning to Choose Gaps for Question Generation." In Proceedings of NAACL 2012.

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