Backed By Science, Built With Passion: This Is Upword

The story of Upword is a simple one. As a law school student, I was looking for a way to learn more quickly, retain knowledge more effectively, and collaborate with others more easily. There was no product that combined all three.

So I created one.

But what felt just intuitive at first, was then supported by science and elevated.

Learning Science is a growing field that applies to all of us. Most of the knowledge we build begins with a spark — an intrinsic motivation that pushes us to explore on our own — which means learning can happen anywhere, anytime.

And as our understanding of the human brain grows, so does our ability to fine-tune our focus and knock down the obstacles that get in the way…

Upword’s product drives inspiration from 3 monumental works in the field of Cognition and Learning Science:

  1. John Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory. Sweller studied the capacity of our short-term and long-term memory and how the brain retains new information. The findings showed that we can hold about 7 items at once and have a short 15–30-second window before information is either stored or forgotten.
  2. Walter Kintsch’s groundbreaking studies on comprehension. Kintsch’s research has revealed the importance of linking new information with knowledge that’s already been consolidated in our brain for optimal learning.
  3. Stephen Kosslyn’s Five Principles of Effective Learning. Prof. Kosslyn has dedicated his life to the science of learning and is one of the top experts in his field. He formulated five principles that underlie effective learning: Deep Processing; Chunking; Building Associations; Dual Coding; and Deliberate Practice. Prof. Kosslyn is also part of Upword’s advisory board.

Drawing on these theories, Upword’s team developed several features, each created to enhance the user’s learning experience, make it more productive while improving their overall retention.

Here they are.

The Upword team product session. Photo by Ben Griffiths on Unsplash
  1. AI Notes

The first feature is an AI-automated note taking tool, designed to promote what we call “Priming” or top-down processing, which is proven to help readers get the main ideas, concepts, and context before they dive into the actual reading.

This feature saves time, reduces cognitive load significantly, and allows for a much smoother reading experience.

2. Text Augmentation. We call it Uplight.

Text augmentation uses AI to automatically highlight the most important sentences in the text. This feature is meant to reduce cognitive load and make sure readers don’t miss important parts of the text as they skim through.

Once again, this feature saves time in mapping the text for the main thread, figures, concepts etc.

3. Editing tools

Active learning means engagement — that is, deliberate and deep processing of the content. Upword provides plenty of editing tools: adding highlights, comments, paraphrases, attachments, layout adjustment, and more.

These are all designed to encourage the users to be active and interact with the content in order to create the perfect, most personalized summary.

4. Audio player

Finally, we’re getting another important sense involved in the process. Being able to listen to the text or your summary keeps you on track and is proven to increase retention.

Our vision at Upword is to move towards personalized learning for any content input. By customizing every content consumption experience to fit your goals and needs, we make sure you get exactly what you need. Each one of our features was created to serve a purpose with that aim in mind, and there are more in the works.

It’s a fascinating field to be a part of, And we’re only getting started.