Help at 3:00 AM! Providing 24/7 Timely Support to Online Students via a Virtual Assistant

by Phu Vu, Scott Fredrickson, Richard Meyer; OJDLA

With a dearth of research on human-robot interaction in education and relatively high non-completion rates of online students, this study was conducted to determine the feasibility of using a virtual assistant (VA) to respond to questions and concerns of students and provide 24/7 online course content support. During a 16 week-long academic semester, four hundred and seventy five interactions between the virtual assistant and learners in two online course sections were generated. On the average, the virtual assistant had 4.2 interactions with the students each day. Three hundred and twenty one interactions out of 475 (67.6%) were made during weekend hours, and 422 interactions (88.8%) were conducted between 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM – time the human instructor usually was unavailable, thereby providing better and more efficient access for the students.

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