Your Teaching Assistant Is a Robot

Margherita Olivo
May 19th 2016

We tend to think that there are certain categories of jobs that can't be replaced by machines, yet. Something like a college teacher, for example. Jill Watson performed as teaching assistant for several students of the Georgia Institute for Technology. The thing students didn't realize is that she wasn't a real person. The experiment lasted five months during which Jill's task was to help students, by answering their questions online. Her responses were so credible and elaborate, that they didn't doubt her identity.

The creator of this test is Ashok Goel, professor in Computing at the same institute. He implemented the artificial intelligent teaching assistant, but she wasn't always this smart. “Initially her answers weren’t good enough because she would get stuck on keywords” said Lalith Polepeddi, a graduate student who helped build Jill. "For example, a student asked about organizing a meet-up to go over video lessons with others, and Jill gave an answer referencing a textbook that could supplement the video lessons - same keywords - but different context. So we learned from mistakes like this one, and gradually made Jill smarter".

As soon as the A.I. replied correctly to 97% of student inquiries it was included with the regular teaching assistants. When Goel told his students that Jill Watson wasn't a human being the class' response was uniformly positive, and most of them were really surprised. The reaction to this experiment was strong, with someone questioning the ethics of it. "The world is full of online classes, and they're plagued with low retention rates" Goel said. "One of the main reasons many students drop out is because they don't receive enough teaching support. We created Jill as a way to provide faster answers and feedback".

Source: Georgia Tech. Image: Ex Machina

Share your thoughts and join the technology debate!

 

Comments are members only. Login to your account and join the technology debate.

LOGIN
Not a member? Join us

Should men be able to give birth to children?


Lisa Mandemaker: Using an artificial womb could lead to more equality between sexes, but also between different family layouts. If men would be able to give birth to children, it would maybe be easier for male same-sex couples to have a child together.

Join us!
Already a member? Login.