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Study of Students' Perception of AI Teachers Could Help Design Better Ones

The rise in online education has led to the advent of a new type of teacheran artificial one. However, what remains to be seen is how far students will accept artificial instructors.

AI teaching assistants can help ease a teacher’s workload, such as by responding to commonly asked questions by students. Image credit: Adobe Stock.

At the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media, scientists have been making efforts to study student insights into artificial intelligence (AI)-based teachers.

A part of their results was published recently in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction and shows that an AI teaching assistant must be effective and easier to speak for students to accept it.

Jihyun Kim, study lead author and an associate professor in the school, hopes that by perceiving how students connect to AI-teachers, computer scientists and engineers can design them such that they can be simply integrated into the education experience.

To use machine teachers effectively, we need to understand students' perceptions toward machine teachers, their learning experiences with them and more. This line of research is needed to design effective machine teachers that can actually facilitate positive learning experiences.

Jihyun Kim, Study Lead Author and Associate Professor, University of Central Florida

AI teaching assistants can reduce the workload of a teacher, like responding to often asked questions by students. Such questions, which are raised each semester in numerous numbers in online classes with hundreds of students, can become a huge task for a teacher. Moreover, the fast delivery of answers helps students.

Jill Watson is an example of an AI teaching assistant developed by a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Jill was trained with thousands of questions and answers that students often ask in the researcher’s online class that he had taught in recent years.

Thanks to some extra learning and fine-tuning, Jill could correctly answer the questions often asked by students without any human assistance as if she was one of the researcher’s human teaching assistants.

As part of the UCF study, respondents were asked to read a news article regarding an AI teaching assistant utilized in higher education, following which they surveyed the views of the students about the technology.

Kim feels, the study result that an AI-based teaching assistant that would most probably be accepted by students was one that was easy to communicate with and useful signifies why it is crucial to have an effective AI-system.

I hope our research findings help us find an effective way to incorporate AI agents into education. 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.

Jihyun Kim, Study Lead Author and Associate Professor, University of Central Florida

The co-authors of the study are Kelly Merrill Jr, a graduate of UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media and currently a doctoral student at The Ohio State University’s School of Communication; Kun Xu, an assistant professor in the Department of Telecommunication at the University of Florida; and Deanna D. Sellnow, a professor in UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media.

Journal Reference:

Kim, J., et al. (2020) My Teacher Is a Machine: Understanding Students’ Perceptions of AI Teaching Assistants in Online Education. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.


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