The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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COLUMN: From hours to minutes: AI-powered tools for academic success

Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

What if you could rapidly complete your reading list without sacrificing comprehension or focus, and still have time and energy left for rest and recreation?

As someone who does a great deal of reading for both school and work, I am always looking for ways to boost productivity and read more, faster, while still retaining the information.

There is no shortage of tools and speed-reading software available that promise to help with this.

One example is BeeLine Reader, which claims to make reading on-screen easier, faster, and more enjoyable by “using eye-guiding color gradient to pull your eyes through long blocks of text,” according to their website.

They claim their technology helps people read more effectively and maintain focus for longer periods. Perhaps this is a dated metaphor, but just imagine a literal reading rainbow.

I work with someone who swears by it, and says he uses BeeLine Reader all the time. I tried it and thought it was okay, but not worth purchasing a subscription.

Not long ago, I came along an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education” that discussed artificial intelligence tools that students deem essential for success in modern college life.

One graduate student mentioned the app Speechify, which uses artificial intelligence for the purposes of speech-to-text dictation. I had to try it. Though I was skeptical at first, it was not long before I was blown away.

First, let me say I do not work for Speechify and am otherwise not invested in the company, but their tool has really changed the game for me in terms of making full use of the time I allocate for focused study of texts.

An academic journal article that once took me two to three hours to read now takes me about an hour. I think the reason for this is that I am an auditory learner.

It really helps me understand when I can read and listen to the text at the same time, and I am able to stay focused on the task because the app displays a playback timer showing how much time is left in the document.

I still print out articles and follow along while Speechify dictates. And no, I do not utilize any of their celebrity voices such as Barack Obama or Snoop Dogg. I still underline and annotate my printouts and, importantly, pause the playback on the app to read and reread anything that requires repeated scrutiny.

The technology is far from perfect, and the AI stutters at times by tripping on hyphenated words, and the flow feels pretty artificial (it is “artificial” intelligence after all). And, while there is a learning curve, I find it very useful, and not just for school.

There is even an internet browser plugin that will read wordy websites or long newsletters that arrive in my Gmail. So, I can either download the audio of long text documents to listen to while I do mundane work around the house, or I can use it for serious focused study. Either way, it certainly is a boon to my productivity.

Finally, I embrace this form of artificial intelligence because it enables me to complete many articles both required and optional without skimming, skipping, or an excessively burdensome time investment.

The subscription fee is worth it to me, and I realize I am in a place of privilege since some students may not be able to afford it.

However, I can envision a future where–like the Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud suites that Eastern students are entitled to with their enrollment fees– AI enhanced software will be considered just another tool required for success in higher education.

Dan Hahn can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

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Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn, Columnist
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 581-2812.

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