Online Learning Update

June 11, 2017

When You’re Not Quite Sure If Your Teacher Is Human

Filed under: Online Learning News — Ray Schroeder @ 12:10 am


A couple of years ago, Ashok Goel was overwhelmed by the number of questions his students were asking in his course on artificial intelligence. Goel teaches computer science at Georgia Tech, sometimes to large classes, where students can ask thousands of questions online in a discussion forum. With a limited number of teaching assistants, or TAs, many of those questions weren’t getting answered in time. So, Goel came up with a plan: make an artificial intelligence “teaching assistant” that could answer some of students’ frequently asked questions. In 2015 he built Jill Watson, his AI TA — named after one of the IBM founders, Thomas J. Watson. “Raising Jill is like raising a young child,” Goel says. “Initially when your child is very, very young, she just remembers all kinds of things she has heard from you, but she doesn’t understand it.” He says the newest version of Jill now understands concepts. Eventually he wants to export these artificial teachers to countries like India to try to boost literacy rates.

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