Educational publisher Pearson is partnering with IBM to have the latter’s Watson computer system tutor students via Pearson’s courseware. Watson will translate questions students ask through their learning programs and provide explanations, feedback, and guidance to get past misconceptions.
Instructors will be able to use data gathered from that process to see what parts of their courses are generating confusion for students and also identify which students require additional assistance.
The partnership between IBM and Pearson will try to replicate and expand upon an experiment IBM conducted at the Georgia Institute of Technology last year, where students in a computer-science course on artificial intelligence had online access to tutoring from a teaching assistant named “Jill Watson.” Researchers had input all the questions ever asked in that course’s online discussion forum into the Watson platform. They wanted to find out if students would discern a difference between human tutors and a virtual counterpart.
At first, Jill Watson’s answers were “odd and irrelevant,” but by the end of the experiment her answers were delivered with ”97% certainty,” according to the research team. Student response was “uniformly positive” when they were eventually told the nature of their tutor.