Comprehension and Pronunciation Instructional Tools for Adult Learners

About the Project

In 2012, a large-scale international study known as the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) was developed to evaluate and compare the general skills of adults around the world, of which literacy was a major focus.1 Literacy proficiency was measured using a 5-level scoring metric, where a Level 3 proficiency was determined to be the minimum skill level required for a person to adequately cope with the demands of day-to-day life.

A U.S. household study conducted by the PIAAC in 2014 found that 51% of Americans over 18 years old failed to reach this minimum benchmark.2 What’s more, nearly 13 million of these adults were found to be "functionally illiterate" and unable to perform even the simplest of literacy tasks, a number which encompasses roughly 4% of the entire U.S. adult population.

By current U.S. population numbers, this statistic represents nearly 13 million Americans who lack even the most basic of reading skills, and nearly 165 million Americans who struggle to read at an adequate enough level to get by day-to-day.

The CAPITAL Project

To address this problem, we’ve developed CAPITAL: Comprehension and Pronunciation Instructional Tools for Adult Learners.

The CAPITAL Project provides algorithmically-generated literacy exercises to adults in basic education programs. CAPITAL allows adult literacy instructors to guide the creation of learning materials to align with their desired curriculum, and delivers these materials to students through a mobile application specifically designed for users with minimal reading ability. A unique suite of algorithms allows exercises to be created completely automatically, substantially reducing the amount of time and effort needed for instructors to create high-quality practice materials for their students.

How it Works



Instructors specify what types of exercises they want to receive, and their desired skill progression


Our algorithms generate all possible exercises that meet the specified parameters


Instructors organize the returned materials into courses and assign them to students



Students receive their assigned exercises in the mobile app, following the skill progression specified by the instructor


The app intelligently assigns materials to students according to their demonstrated skill level and weaknesses


Students level up their skills over time by practicing often, at a rate optimized for long-term retention and learning


What makes The CAPITAL Project unique

Algorithmically Generated

Our unique suite of algorithms generates learning materials automatically, saving instructors significant time and effort.


Materials can be generated from virtually any curriculum, and can be customized to the exact needs of the instructor.

Thorough Coverage

Our exercises cover virtually all phonological and phonemic awareness skills, accurately and thoroughly.

The Science of Learning

Our application is designed to maximize long-term learning, providing a customized experience for each user based on their performance.


Exercises are presented in the form of games, where users are motivated to earn points and level up their skills.

Careful User Design

Extensive user testing shows that our application is usable, intuitive, and learnable for adults with below-average literacy.



  • J. Hill, ““Algorithmic Generation and Mobile Distribution of Phonetic, Orthographic, and Inference-Based Literacy Exercises for Adult Learners,” The George Washington University, 2018. (Unpublished doctoral thesis).
  • 2016

  • J. Hill and R. Simha, “Designing a Literacy-Based Mobile Application for Adult Learners,” in Proceedings of the 34th Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2016, pp. 3076–3083.
  • J. Hill and R. Simha, “Automatic Generation of Context-Based Fill-in-the-Blank Exercises Using Co-occurrence Likelihoods and Google n-grams,” in Proceedings of the 11th Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications, 2016, pp. 23–30.
  • Where We Are

    CAPITAL is being used by students at multiple organizations in the DMV area:



    Jennifer Hill

    Ph.D., Computer Science

    The CAPITAL Project was Jennifer's doctoral thesis. She defended her dissertation, Algorithmic Generation and Mobile Distribution of Phonetic, Orthographic, and Inference-Based Literacy Exercises for Adult Learners, in December 2017.