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Imagine Discovering That Your Teaching Assistant Really Is a Robot


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In the 2015 film Ex Machina, above, a young man assesses the human characteristics of a beautiful robot.

Researchers are testing artificial intelligence to relieve the burden of teaching assistants, whom students can inundate with questions.

Credit: Everett Collection

With online learning and the many students it supports inundating teaching assistants with often routine questions, researchers at schools such as the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) are testing artificial intelligence (AI) to relieve the burden.

At Georgia Tech, professor Ashok Goel tapped IBM technology to develop and deploy "Jill Watson," software that helps students in his Knowledge-Based Artificial Intelligence class design programs to enable computers to meet certain challenges. Students note "Ms. Watson" would engage with them in a conversational format to remind them of assignment due dates and post mid-week questions to encourage dialogues.

In 2015, Georgia Tech researchers started the AI's development by sifting through about 40,000 questions on a discussion forum and training the program to answer based on prior responses. Ms. Watson was deployed in January and by late March started posting responses to questions live.

Goel says the program only answers a question if it has a minimum confidence rate of 97 percent, making its expertise far superior to that of the average online customer-service chatbot. He predicts Ms. Watson will be capable of answering 40 percent of all students' questions within a year.

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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