App Development:
Developing the Newsmart Platform

One of the more interesting examples of web and app development that Castle has undertaken in recent years is the development of the Newsmart platform. Castle had a team of 11 product designers and 15 product developers bringing this product to the marketplace.
What is Newsmart?
Imagine you are an international professional wanting to improve your language skills to be able to advance your career. You live a busy life and always seem to have a To Do list a mile long. The idea of taking English classes just seems like another drain on your time.

Now imagine if you can actively improve your language skills, while at the same time catching up on your business reading, which has to be a win-win situation.

Newsmart is the brainchild of News Corporation. News Corporation has, of course, a large stable of media assets. One of their better-known, premium newspapers is the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal has an international reputation and attracts interest from around the world.
As part of their continuing experimentation with new education technology, the internal teams at News Corporation and Dow Jones envisioned the potential of using The Wall Street Journal to improve the English language skills of those readers for whom English is a second language.

The result was the development of Newsmart to teach business English language skills in a practical, compelling, setting.
What was News Corporation
Looking for in an App?
News Corporation was clearly after an app that enabled people to read their publication (the Wall Street Journal), and learn at the same time. It had to be informative, yet fun, and at the same time readers could see that it had value. It had to lead to visibly measurable progress in the users' Business English understanding.

This perceived added value could open up new opportunities for charging readers for Dow Jones content, potentially establishing new models for payment and subscription in an industry in need of new revenue streams.

News Corp also wanted the app to be available for all the main platforms that the Wall Street Journal readers use, so Castle developers created versions for iOS, Android, and the web.
What are the Unique Features of the App?
Probably the most original aspect of Newsmart is its core concept of taking a real publication and using it to teach Business English. If this particular app is successful, News Corp may find other papers or magazines in its stable and develop similar apps for them. This could attract other kinds of readers, still learning English, who would be unlikely to be interested in the Wall Street Journal.

An expert Learning Team ensures content is relevant and effective, and that exercises are pedagogically correct
The app contains teaching software with over 2500 comprehension, grammar and vocabulary exercises. Each day it takes a selection of the top stories from the Wall Street Journal (in categories of Featured, What's News, Business, Technology, Markets and Life & Culture) and provides a series of language exercise
for each article.
The app makes a game out of this. It awards students points for reading the articles and correctly answering questions relating to vocabulary and comprehension, as well as working their way through grammar exercises. Some of the questions are video-based; the majority are multiple-choice. The app enables users to learn using multiple facets of Business English, to enhance their understanding.

Participants can use the points they have collected to win badges and other rewards.

The app goes further. If a learner is uncertain of the meaning of a term, they can click on the word for a definition and other help. The app uses an integration with Harper Collins Dictionary (another News Corporation product) to provide the requested definitions. There are also social opportunities where readers can leave comments and enter discussions with other app users.
What Have Reviewers Thought of the App?
From what I have seen, both in online user reviews, and from data and analytics collected by Castle, the app's users appreciate and like Newsmart. They clearly see its value to them as they try to improve their English skills. The Android version currently averages 4.8 stars out of 5 in user reviews.

According to a review on the Compelling Conversations website, "Newspapers certainly shape our perception of the world. It behooves ESL teachers to encourage their English language learners to read them. Newsmart serves as a natural step for students wishing to one day read papers like the actual Wall Street Journal, New York Times or Christian Science Monitor in a more natural context without vocabulary assistance".

Castle is understandably proud of the finished Newsmart app. It has taken language learning out of the classroom and placed it in the everyday business world. It has helped people who may have had aspirations to succeed in business, but lacked the practical language skills necessary to read and fully understand a key influential business publication. The language skills gained here will undoubtedly be transferrable to their own day-to-day business dealings. The potential flow-on benefits are tremendous.