Two FAU alumni and one current student hope to make education accessible to everyone, everywhere
Studying efficiently on the move – with the app that makes it possible
Whether for your calendar, contacts, working on documents or writing e-mails, the smartphone has long since become a mobile office for many people. Students also increasingly use their mobile devices for organising their studies and for revision. FAU alumnus Quirin Malcherzyk and Pascal Pierre, who is currently studying at FAU, have developed an app for studying called ‘Flexudy’ together with another FAU alumnus, Benjamin Albrecht, and two friends, Deli Sarsar and Steffen Süß.
Using quizzes to make studying more efficient and fun
Pascal Pierre had the idea for the app while studying for his Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems at FAU, which he completed in 2019. ‘We covered a huge amount during lectures. I needed a way to help me keep on top of everything and learn things in a more targeted way, which is why instead of just taking lecture notes, I started to devise my own exam questions, for example in the form of a quiz,’ explains Pascal Pierre. ‘I passed on my notes to some classmates and they thought the quizzes were especially helpful.’
The learning effect from answering questions about the content of the course and the fun format of a quiz made preparing for exams more thorough and more focussed. Pascal Pierre quickly realised that there was a great demand for materials to support learning. In addition, during a lecture on research methods, he became familiar with natural language processing (NLP) technology. NLP is used to machine process natural language. ‘NLP seemed like the perfect solution to automatically generate learning material using an algorithm. After a survey among fellow students, I discovered that a large majority of them would use a smartphone app to study,’ explains Pascal Pierre. FAU also played a decisive role in the further development of ‘Flexudy’.
FAU as the ‘birthplace’ of ‘Flexudy’
To turn ‘Flexudy’ into reality, Pascal Pierre first joined forces with Deli Sarsar, an experienced software developer, and took part in the ‘5 euro business competition’ at FAU in winter semester 2018. During the competition, Pascal Pierre and Deli Sarsar met Quirin Malcherzyk, who completed his degree in Business and Economics with a focus on Information Systems at FAU in March 2020. ‘Flexudy’ now started to take shape.
‘We acquired most of the skills required for developing our artificial intelligence and the business model behind it at FAU,’ emphasises Pascal Pierre. This means that not only did the ‘Flexudy’ team come together at FAU, but the University’s Start-up Office was also another important provider of support during the development of the app. ‘The office has a skilled team for upcoming startups, who have been providing us with help and advice for a while now. FAU in general is very supportive of entrepreneurs,’ confirms Quirin Malcherzyk.
The team is now made up of five people whose expertise all contributes to the success of ‘Flexudy’: Pascal Pierre, Deli Sarsar, Quirin Malcherzyk, Benjamin Albrecht and Steffen Süß. The team works together across the globe, from Munich to Canada. Communication within the team takes place mostly online. ‘The virtual world is our office,’ explains Quirin Malcherzyk.
But what can ‘Flexudy’ do exactly?
Use ‘Flexudy’ to create, prepare and summarise learning material
Learning algorithms are at the centre of ‘Flexudy’ as Quirin Malcherzyk explains. ‘Using AI, our technology can generate question and answer cards, gap-fill exercises, summaries and, in future, multiple choice questions automatically in various languages from any learning material.’ The app is very easy to use. Users simply select a file or a website, open it in the app and the rest happens automatically.
The technology behind ‘Flexudy’ is more complex. To enable the app to generate questions and summaries, it uses various deep learning models, clustering and ranking algorithms and the models are trained using freely available libraries. ‘Models in NLP are usually trained in such a way that they work on a specific area of application,’ says Quirin Malcherzyk. ‘Flexudy’ is much more flexible in this respect, as the founders have created an innovative AI model for the app that generates specific results irrespective of language and topic, thus enabling it to be used for a wide range of subjects and languages.
Equal opportunities in education
However, although they are important, these are just the initial steps and the ‘Flexudy’ project is far from complete. The next phase involves setting up a company and continuously improving the AI. The plan is to develop the app so that it tailors the answers individually to each user in future.
In addition to making studying easier, the founders of ‘Flexudy’ are pursuing another much greater goal. ‘We hope that our app will revolutionise education and make it accessible to everyone everywhere, so that educational success no longer depends on parents’ level of education. In addition, we want to offer an alternative to private tutoring lessons, which can be very expensive,’ says Pascal Pierre. ‘We want nothing less than to reinvent the concept of education as it exists today and to tear down the ominous ivory towers associated with it,’ adds Quiring Malcherzyk.
The ‘Flexudy’ app is available to download free of charge in the Google Play Store and in the Apple App Store. The app does not contain any advertisements and does not store or pass on any personal data to third parties.
Information about FAU’s Start-up Office.