Online education gaining momentum has allowed a new kind of teacher to emerge — an artificial one. Researchers found that for students to accept an AI teaching assistant, it needs to be effective and easy to talk to.
Researchers at the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media are working to examine student perceptions of artificial intelligence-based teachers.
Key findings published recently in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.
“To use machine teachers effectively, we need to understand students’ perceptions toward them, their learning experiences with them, and more,” says Jihyun Kim, an associate professor in the school and lead author of the study.
“This line of research is needed to find out design-effective machine teachers that can actually facilitate positive learning experiences.”
The AI teaching assistants can help ease a teacher’s workload, such as by responding to commonly asked questions by the students. These questions, which often appear each semester and become numerous in online classes with hundreds of students, can become a large task for a teacher. The quick delivery of answers also helps students.
An example of an AI teaching assistant is one named Jill Watson that was created by a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Jill was fed thousands of questions and answers commonly asked in the researcher’s online class that he’d taught over the years. With some additional learning and tweaks, Jill was eventually able to answer the students’ commonly asked questions accurately without any human assistance as if she was one of the researcher’s human teaching assistants.
For the UCF study, the researchers asked respondents to read a news article about an AI teaching assistant used in higher education, and then they surveyed the students’ perceptions of the technology.
The finding that an AI-based teaching assistant that students were most likely to accept was one that was useful and was easy to communicate with points to the importance of having an effective AI system, Kim says “By adopting an AI agent as an assistant for a simple and repetitive task, teachers would be able to spend more time doing things such as meeting with students and developing teaching strategies that will ultimately help student learning in meaningful ways.”
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