Academic Vocabulary App (AVA)

The Academic Vocabulary App is software developed specifically to accompany courses in the Academic Bridge Program at Zayed University. It is designed to work on most smartphones (Android, IOS, Windows) and has a gamification element to help engage students where-ever they are at.

This project was a collaboration between the Center for Educational Development (CEI) and the Academic Bridge Program (ABP). The CEI provided project management, product design and usability, instructional design expertise, and product testing. The ABP faculty provided the overarching pedagogical design and application content. It is safe to say that both groups were necessary in order to produce the Academic Vocabulary App.

The CEI, led by CJ Davison, facilitated the development of a comprehensive product design document. This process helped solidify pedagogical ideas and to better understand the affordances and constraints of a mobile-technology-enabled learning environment. Once the design document was complete and agreed to by CEI and ABP, an RFP process was begun. We did not have the development expertise in-house so we opted to hire a software development company to develop for us. The design document helped provide bidding companies a much better idea of what they were being asked to develop and were able to provide solid estimates. Based on the competing bids and conformance to Zayed Universities purchasing criteria, Incubasys was selected to develop the software.

In an effort to make the app culturally and regionally relevant we opted to use only imagery that accurately depicted our students’ lives. This required the development of roughly 500 new images for the product, many of which we were able to share with the Zayed University community.

Student testing and reviews of the product have been very positive!

This project was a great example of a collaboration that resulted in a wonderful product.

These folks say it much better than I can, so …

App is a world-first for Zayed University!

In a world-first for Zayed University, an exciting and innovative app has been produced by  the Academic Bridge Programme (ABP) in collaboration with the Centre for Educational Innovation (CEI).
The Academic Vocabulary App (AVA) has been successfully piloted by ABP students and specifically targets academic words for Arabic learners. The students in EGAP level 3 now have this app on their mobile devices and can practise the vocabulary they need for university study any place, any time and on any device! It even has elements of gamification to make it more fun and enjoyable to use.

ABP students work independently on the various activities of the app in their own time and take regular quizzes to re-inforce learning. There are 600 word families in total while the app’s in-built gaming really helps motivate the students by letting them score points and even enables them to ‘compete’ against other classes and levels!

The AVA could well be the first such vocab app of its kind to include Arabic translations tailored to Emiratis. Topics were also carefully chosen to be appealing and relevant to Zayed University students.
The content is based on the most up-to-date, frequency-based word lists helping the students learn not just about meaning but also collocation. The app also adapts to the student’s individual level and will automatically recycle their ‘weak’ words.

Another novel feature of the app is that the students’ instructors can monitor progress and give guidance and instruction where necessary.

Michael Bowles has led a team of faculty in the ABP who have worked tirelessly to produce the material and CJ (Christina) Davidson has played a vital role as the technological co-ordinator from CEI. The team selected the most relevant vocabulary items and created 13 different activities for each of the 600 word families across 12 units.  

Given that up to 72% of reading performance is due to vocabulary size, we can only assume that Zayed University students reading, accuracy and fluency in English will go from strength to strength helped by their new app!

Next time you see a student’s eyes down on her phone it might just be because she is learning the meaning of ‘scholarship’



Some references: