AI-Powered Learning: Making Education Accessible, Affordable, and Achievable

We have developed an AIpowered sociotechnical system for making online learning in higher education more
accessible, affordable and achievable. In particular, we have developed four novel and intertwined AI technologies: (1) VERA, a virtual experimentation research assistant for supporting inquirybased learning of scientific knowledge, (2) Jill Watson Q&A, a virtual teaching assistant for answering questions based on educational documents including VERA’s user reference guide, (3) Jill Watson SA, a virtual social agent that promotes online interactions, and (4) Agent Smith, that helps generate a Jill Watson Q&A agent for new documents such as class syllabi. The results are positive: (i) VERA enhances ecological knowledge and is freely available online; (ii) Jill Watson Q&A has been used by >4,000 students in >12 online classes and saved teachers >500 hours of work; (iii) Jill Q&A and Jill Watson SA promote learner engagement,
interaction, and community; and (iv). Agent Smith helps generate Jill Watson Q&A for a new syllabus within ~25 hours. Put together, these innovative technologies help make online learning simultaneously more accessible (by making materials available online), affordable (by saving teachers’ time), and achievable (by providing learning assistance and fostering student engagement.