The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Chatbots in the Classroom

Chatbots are being used in retail and finance to provide answers to common customer-service issues on e-commerce sites. Instructors at the BI Norwegian Business School are working on ways to use the same technology in the classroom.

Not satisfied with the choices in learning management systems, advisor Erik B√łylestad Nilsen and his team worked with the educational technology startup Edtech Foundry to pilot Differ, a solution that uses chatbots to encourage students to interact with course materials. Differ is able to respond to frequently asked questions and urges students to participate in class discussions and forums.

“Students have a lot of the same questions over and over again,” Nilsen said in an article for EdSurge. “They’re looking for the answers to easy administrative questions and they have similar types of questions regarding their subjects each year. Chatbots help get rid of some of the noise. Students are able to get answers as quick as possible and move on.”

Chatbots use data from the courses to learn the answers and spot student behaviors. They can also be used to send direct messages to individual students rather than posting information to the entire class. Students using the tool appear to be more open to talking to chatbots than originally envisioned.

“They’re afraid of being judged,” Nilsen said. “There’s no space where they can ask the silly questions, where they can stay out of the faculty’s loop.”

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