1. The Chatbot Teaching Assistant
Colorado State University (CSU) plans to use ‘Intelligent Tutoring’ in two online undergraduate courses this Fall. The goal is to improve learning outcomes, increase instructors’ productivity and enable high-quality personalized education by using chatbot technology. A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users on a web-based platform. You may have engaged with chatbot without knowing; they’re embedded in banking platforms, retailers sites and others. Companies use chatbot software to respond to customer requests for basic and frequently asked questions. There are benefits—cost effectiveness for the company and improved service levels for customers by reducing wait times for answers and the frustration of automated phone systems. But can learners benefit?
A professor of an online Computer Science course at Georgia Tech thought so. He created a chatbot teaching assistant, Jill Watson. According to Goel his students didn’t even notice:
Jill came to be after Goel decided he and his teaching assistants were being spread thin. Goel’s class was a popular online course, and his teaching team receives over 10,000 online questions per semester. Jill was trained by reading questions and answers from previous semesters, and was set to only respond to new ones if it was 97 percent confident in its answer or higher. — TNW
Insight: The education sector is sensitive to robot technology as a replacement for teacher interaction as we’ve seen with automated essay grading software (Larson, 2013). Yet with the expansion of online learning and it’s potential to reach more students, technology like chatbots and grading software will be the norm. This technology is critical for achieving scale and can be effective for some instructional tasks, while not taking away from value of faculty and instructor expertise.
More on Chatbots:
- What happened when a professor built a chatbot to be his teaching assistant, The Washington Post
- CSU Online brings artificial intelligence-powered learning tools to courses, Source
- Facebook is Teaching Chatbots to Talk with Help From Facebook, Wired Magazine
2. MOOCs become Credit-Worthy, Globally
MOOCs are disrupting higher education if you consider degree-granting institutions awarding college credit for MOOCs disruptive. Over the last year institutions around the world are moving to integrate MOOC coursework into traditional degree programs. Partnerships between MOOC providers (FutureLearn, edX and Cousera) and higher-ed institutions are allowing students to obtain college-credits easily and affordably. In the UK, Leeds and Open University are granting credit to students who complete certain MOOCs and earn a certificate through the platform. In the US the Global Freshman academy and American Public University offer similar programs.
In the United State the American Council on Education’s (ACE) ‘Alternative Credit Project’ aims to support students complete an undergraduate degree by using MOOCs as credit.
In India, Bennett University partners with Georgia Tech to support students working through Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS), an entire degree program based on the MOOC-format. The total cost for the program is under $7,000 (US funds). Bennett University provides students based in India, ground support for while they are working through the MOOC degree program.
Governments are also getting involved in the MOOC movement as in South Korea where the Ministry of Education encourages universities to grant credit for MOOC study. South Korea is a leader in online education, and is actively promoting MOOC study for credit along with its other initiatives, such as the Cyber-University program launched in 2001.
Insight: Despite what MOOC critics have suggested over the last three years—that MOOCs are not disruptive, they are. The reach of MOOCs, or variations of the MOOC format, is far and wide—bringing education to learners who can not, for a variety of reasons, attend a brick-and-mortar institution. Institutions and governments are seeing the value of the MOOC format; it’s a win-win.
- Students can earn credit from K-MOOC lectures, The Korea Times
- Georgia Tech’s Online Masters in Computer Science to enter India, The Economic Times
- MOOCs: Leeds and Open University offering course credit towards degrees for first time, The Independent
- MOOCs for Credit, Class-Central
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