Microsoft introduces new Reading Coach feature for Microsoft 365
Microsoft has announced a new Reading Coach feature for Microsoft 365, geared towards learners and educators. It builds on top of Reading Progress, which was introduced last year in Teams. That allowed teachers to more easily evaluate their students’ fluency with online tests, measuring their speed and accuracy.
Reading Coach goes a step further in helping students perfect their reading skills. Once students read the text in their Reading Progress assignment in Microsoft 365, Reading Coach will highlight the five words they struggled with the most. Students can then practice those words individually multiple times to get it right. All of this practice data can be shared with educators, so they know what words students practiced, how many times, and what tools they may have used to get there.
Beyond the obvious education uses, Microsoft is also building Reading Coach into the Immersive Reader feature across various Microsoft 365 apps. That includes Word Online, OneNote, Teams, and more. With this, users can select a portion of text and practice reading it, and Reading Coach will generate a report on how well they did. These reports can help track a student’s progress over time, without the pressure of being tied to a school assignment.
Microsoft also announced a wealth of improvements to Reading Progress, starting with a new Prosody evaluation. The initial version of Reading Progress tracked two key elements of fluency – reading speed and accuracy – but it wasn’t able to analyze the expression of the speech. With the Prosody update, Reading Progress can also evaluate whether a student can adequately convey expression, such as pausing for commas and periods, voice inflection for questions, and more. The goal is to ultimately help students avoid speaking in a monotone.
On the teacher’s side, there are new actionable insights, meaning they can now see the words students struggle with the most and create a Reading Progress challenge to help them practice those words. Teachers will also be able to see phonics rules on their insights dashboard to see how well students handle specific sounds. Microsoft is also making it possible to create and review Reading Progress assignments on mobile.
Teachers can also now customize the feedback they send to their students about their assignments, and they can also add more specific notes about what they can improve in a specific assignment before returning it for revision. One last improvement on the teacher side is the ability to import pages from a OneNote Class Notebook as a Reading Progress assignment. Finally, schools that subscribe to Education Insights Premium can also compare their students’ performance to other schools.
Microsoft also announced that the auto-detect feature now supports 67 additional languages and locales. This features if a student uses a specific regional dialect for a given language to determine what’s considered an error, so students aren’t penalized if they grew up in a region with different pronunciation for certain words. It now supports over 100 languages in total.
Some of these features are rolling out this week, but Reading Coach will be coming to Reading Progress later this spring, as will the new Prosody feature. If you want to use Reading Coach in Immersive Reader across Microsoft 365 apps, that will be coming in the summer.