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How Can Professors Integrate AI to Increase Student Engagement?

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

In EdSurge's article, which is a featured part of their mobile education guide, Jon Reifschneider, a professor at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, explains the challenges of online teaching. The common growing concern among professors and the unknown gaps that could exist in their student’s comprehension of course material concerns professors when they want to ensure their students have every tool to succeed. In a case where students don’t even know how they need to ask for help, this problem remains unsolved.

Unknown gaps in education led to the creation of Intelligent Classroom Assistant. This tool helps professors mitigate this problem by tracking student learning and comprehension based on homework or quiz scores and groups questions into evaluated topics. Student scores can be grouped into these topics to show where a student needs more help and attention.

There is a growing desire for professors, especially after the unprecedented shift to online learning, to connect with their students personally. As professors are learning, presence does not always equal engagement. This is becoming increasingly difficult for them as the distance continues to grow, and we become more accustomed to this education style.

Educators also face the increasing demand of creating scalable course content during this reality shift. It is becoming more likely for professors to be required to teach larger and larger courses now that education has shifted to online, furthering the disconnect between teacher and student.

Problem Identified

The main problem for professors in this modern education landscape is not knowing how students are doing and how effective a professor’s teaching is until the end of the semester- even in smaller courses. Reifschneider explains that the perpetual wondering of “how do you know what will be helpful and useful until the end of the semester grades?” is all too common among college professors. Even when students are asked, “what do you need help on?” it is a tricky question for them to accurately answer because their understanding of concepts is too vague for them to be aware of what they need help on. This creates barriers to potential knowledge for students and helps teachers.

To further investigate this gap between instructor understanding of students’ knowledge, Duke conducted a study to understand how using data can help instructors understand student engagement levels, be an influential professor, and provide personalized guidance.

They learned that understanding how to reach each student on an individual level most effectively is vital to be aware of the current set of topics a student has mastered. This evaluation can be done through weekly graded quizzes, homework, or other similar assessments. Using this solution, it is crucial that effective teachers can successfully conduct engaging lectures and create and evaluate homework assignments that measure specific skills covered within the course material. Assuming that a professor has these skills, they can use AI to recognize patterns in student performance, providing an accurate summary of a student’s current mastery.

Bringing AI into the mix

After identifying this problem, Jon Reifschneider and his colleagues created the Intelligent Classroom Assistant. This is Duke’s algorithmic tool that reads homework and quiz results given by instructors by grouping them into topics covered in the course. The device uses provided data to allow an instructor to identify a students’ level of mastery at any given time to create clarification on what guidance will best assist different students. This can also be used to evaluate how the course as a whole has understood covered topics.

As Jon Reifschneider explains, with a custom algorithm, the tool can understand natural language processing with open-source libraries’. The tool then can understand the context in which questions are asked to connect it to one of the core topics taught within a course.

An important consideration in moving forward with incorporating AI into the education industry is that it should act to enhance the learning experience. There are many ways AI can help the efficiency and effectiveness of education without it crossing over into being the education industry. This problem is solved with a solution enhanced with AI, which is the ideal method of introducing AI into this field.

There are several examples of how AI has enhanced student engagement and ways it has been used to better understand and accommodate student needs in schools such as at Georgia State and Georgia Tech. This usage of AI has expanded from being used in the classroom to enhance student’s overall college experience. Integrating AI into the education experience has helped both universities decrease drop-out rates and tailor interactions with students to individual needs ensuring they are fully taken care of and have any assistance needed in their overall college experience.

It is also important to find a healthy balance between the way AI is used in education because as our modern world integrates with AI, education will move with it. Using it correctly, such as in this situation, can significantly enhance how professors teach and connect with their students.

Using the Intelligent Classroom Assistant

Jon Reifschneider tested this tool with one of his courses for two main reasons:

  • Gaining guidance for which topics need more in-course time or better explanations based on quiz scores.

  • Analyzing an individual student’s performance to ensure proper advice is given in individual help sessions.

The information produced by the tool can also be shared with students so they can understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie within the course content. This sharing of data can be helpful for both students and teachers. As we previously discussed, in some cases, students have trouble identifying which topics they have a problem with when asked by their professors. Using this tool, they can quickly identify which topics they need help in, ask the professor for help on them, or relearn the material themselves if they so choose.

One crucial variable in using this tool is that an instructor must accurately define their course learning objectives for the tool to measure and then further structure their course material and assessments around the system’s goals to be valuable. If these objectives and measurables are not in sync, the tool will not provide accurate results. Given that this is addressed and understood by instructors, the Intelligent Classroom Assistant can help teachers improve the quality of courses and enable the scalability of courses and practical, personal teaching.

Who Else is Doing This?

Uvii has created a platform that brings accessibility to education and provides real-time evaluation for instructors to understand how their students perform in their course. One of our innovative tools is the online portal, which tracks data analytics. Uvii can be used to capture student engagement, which can count for 15% of their course participation grade beyond their presence through our LMS integration to course grade books and exportable data tracking true engagement levels. Additional features include command-driven push notifications from patented Action Command Messaging (ACM) along with micro assessments responding with video, audio, and text comments contribute to increased student retention and engagement levels inside and outside the classroom. To learn more, request a demo or schedule a chat to speak with an Uvii team member.


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