Let's Chat! Chatbot Testing Interface
Students at TUD and Uni Graz are working on feeding and training the Chatbot Tutor in both German and English. The process is simple. Students first make contact with the Chatbot through Telegram. Next, students ask the Chatbot questions about a predetermined course. If the bot answers the question correctly, the student moves on. If the bot is unsure of the answer, the student enters the question and answer into a database which will then be updated by TUD so that the bot can answer the question next time. This process tests the usability of the interface, the accessibility of the dissemination channels offered by the AI, the use of hardware resources on the servers during the training, the interaction of the students with the chatbot, and the occurrence of errors and exceptions, the causes, and the AI decision making process. Plus, chatting with a bot and watching it learn in real time is quite entertaining! Oh, what the future will bring.
International Conference: Digitalization in Higher Education
The VISION team was thrilled to finally meet in person and present the project to all our guests at the event: Digitalization in Higher Education. We heard from various presenters including Lasse Rouhiainen (best-selling author and international expert on artificial intelligence, disruptive technologies and digital marketing), Dr. Martin Ebner (TU Graz), and Dr. Michael Kopp (head of the Center for Digital Teaching and Learning at Uni Graz). We also heard from each project partner and the Dean of the Faculty of Environmental, Regional and Educational Sciences at Uni Graz. Thanks to everyone for coming and participating in fruitful discussions afterwards!
UvA's Requirement Review Process
What goes into creating the Smart Authoring Tool and the Chatbot? The first order of business is a requirements review! Here is the process UvA went through in order to carry it out.
- They collected state-of-the-art and state-of-practice data.
- They checked the feasibility of the set of desirable requirements with the VISION technical development partners at TUD and Smart-Study.
- Based on their input, they filtered a subset of desirable and feasible requirements.
- From these requirements, they constructed a set of features.
- They proceeded to construct mockups of these agreed upon features.
- They sent them to the development team for review.
And the process continues! Stay tuned.
What is SCORM?
The courses in the Smart Authoring Tool are exported as SCORM packages. But what are these SCORM packages and what are the benefits of them?
SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is an international standard for e-learning courses. If a course is published in the SCORM format, most learning management systems (LMS) will be able to read it and to show the content inside.
Before the SCORM standard was established, courses that were created in one LMS could not be used in another. In 2001, the SCORM format was established as an advanced standard and is the most common standard for e-learning courses. The SCORM Standard is a list of requirements for eLearning courses. Once the requirements on the list are met, the courses work on any platform and thus become shareable.
Thanks to the SCORM standard, the AI-based courses created as a part of VISION can be used across all of the LMSs of the University of Graz, TUD, and UvA and whichever universities use VISION in the future!
Natural Language Processing and the Chatbot
There are different types of chatbots commonly developed for customer support. Chatbots based on regular expressions and word recognition are developed for a specific purpose. The VISION project’s chatbot is based on natural language processing or NLP. NLP is a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language. NLP uses elements from many disciplines including computational linguistics.
An understandable interface is currently being developed at TU Dresden for teachers to feed the knowledge base for the chatbot to provide answers to students about the organization and content of the course. This tool will be integrated with the Smart-Authoring tool.
Below is a provisional interface to feed a knowledge base to the chabot to provide answers to sentences written by students in natural language.
This makes it easier for teachers to avoid having to familiarize themselves with NLU concepts such as intent, entities and domains. It will also allow students to ask questions about the course and its content without having to reach out to the teacher.
Ultimately, the chatbot will be able to have more in depth conversations with students to answer specific questions about the content. To do this, it will pull information from its knowledge base.
Quizzes and Other Assessment Tools Added to Smart Authoring Tool
Smart-Study and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have been working hard on the features of the Smart-Authoring tool, specifically for creating formative assessments and quizzes. Firstly, the teams looked at existing tools and their designs including Adobe Captivate, Lectora, and Articulate. The UvA-team came up with some pros and cons for each tool. For example, Adobe Captivate had a large variety of questions and a basic look while maintaining enough customization. Lectora offers even more customization but is way too complicated for new users. Articulate shows a clean default look and is intuitive but lacks the customization VISION might need.
Using this feedback, UvA created mockups. The goal was to create a first draft design that could be used to start developing the formative assessment feature within the Smart-Authoring tool. The design philosophy is to create an intuitive tool that is easy to use while still offering enough customization if needed.
Smart Authoring Tool Developments
Smart Authoring Tool Progress from Smart-Study
TUD Begins Testing Bot Functions
Currently about 150 students have started to work with a preliminary version of the VISION Chatbot Tutor while studying educational technology in the lectures of project member Prof. Dr. Thomas Köhler from TU Dresden. In addition to practical usage, students also reflect on their experiences with AI technology in form of a essay as part of their written examination to develop an even better understanding of future teaching technologies as they progress. We are very excited to start seeing the results of the preliminary testing!
Consortium Meeting One
Although we had planned our first consortium meeting to be in person in Dresden, COVID changed everything once again. We were, however, not bitter! We met online to discuss the project and made the most of it. We talked about our risk assessment strategy, began developing questions for our chatbot and covered some administrative items. The entire team is hoping that one day soon we will meet in person.
Here is a look at our December newsletter, which wraps up the first six months of the project.
Sneak Peek of UI for Smart Authoring Tool
Hot off the press from Smart-Study, here is a first look at the visual layout for the Smart Authoring Tool! These initial mockups help the team put visual layout ideas onto a canvas so that everyone is on the same page. Graphical design, colors and other similar concerns will be discussed at a later stage.
Mapping out the chatbot functions is the first step in understanding how all of the elements will work together to create our great Visionary!
International Research Day at Uni Graz
VISION team members from Uni Graz presented VISION at the annual Research Day in front of faculty members and students. There the team discussed the goals of the project and inspired a conversation about the future of education in an ever changing digital landscape.
Planning the E-Course
UvA and Uni Graz sat down (virtually) to discuss the initial ideas for the E-Course structure. These ideas were visualized in a mind map to present to the larger team. Off to a good start!
Visualizing the Chatbot Workflow
Setting the structure of the workflow is an extremely important step! Below is an idea of our team’s initial workflow ideas. Perhaps this will change and evolve, but we are off to a good start.
Building a Chatbot
Building a chatbot tutor is extremely exciting, fun, interesting and yes, complicated! Our goal is to create a chatbot that can simulate student-teacher interactions through a messaging application embedded directly in the LMS. As we begin building this bot, we have to find out what elements will be most important to teachers when using the bot and how we can adapt the bot to ensure its implementation in every course, language and at every university. As we move forward, we are starting to understand all the moving parts that will help make this a success.
The Launch of VISION
After much hard work, the day has finally come: VISION has launched! While the kickoff meeting was not in-person (as we had initially planned), we were able to engage in productive conversations and get to know one another through two days of online meetings. We covered administrative details and dissemination and began our first detailed technical talks for the three intellectual outputs. The entire consortium is looking forward building the chatbot, smart authoring tool and the e-course.