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How chatbots are transforming learning - B-AIM PICK selects

Artificial intelligence coexisting with our daily lives is no longer an idea firmly based in the ‘crackpot theory’ realm of futuristic possibilities — AI is already pervasive in our current world. If you own a smartphone, laptop, social media profile or even if you have hopped on a plane trip recently you are already plugged in. AI has come a long way in recent years, taking great leaps into advancement rendering what was once considered ‘sci-fi’ as now commonplace. Currently, AI is being implemented in nearly every industry on the planet at such a rapid rate that many of us didn’t even notice the pivot from paper to binary. From the retail, healthcare, economic and transport industries (to name a few), AI plays a major role in creating efficiency and reliability at a fraction of the cost. It’s revolutionising these industries for the better and the way we view them is changing by the minute. So what industry is next for AI to infiltrate, adapt and improve? Education, of course.

There are many ways AI is transforming the education industry. Yes, it is an industry as there is money to be made in education — no degree is free. Gone are the days of studious learners tucked away in darkened library halls devouring volumes of hardcover books submitting handwritten essays to lecturers in neatly bound folders. The wealth of the world’s information is now condensed to a search bar and submissions of works are a click away. But apart from the obvious improvements technology has made on today’s learners the world over, how are chatbots changing the education game even further?

We’ve made a list of the top chatbots in education and explore how their particular AI functionalities help their learners absorb more knowledge and improve their retention.

Duolingo (AI: natural language processing)

For those who haven’t heard of it before (what’s it like living under that rock?), Duolingo is a hugely popular language learning app which uses gamification as a tool to transfer knowledge. Most people endeavouring to learn a new language will tell you that the best way to learn is to talk to a native speaker, or, if they are hard to find, speak out loud in your soon-to-be new language. But learning on your own through an app doesn’t allow for this. So Duolingo created a series of chatbots with their own unique characters (related to the language of choice) where users can enter into a spoken chat and practice their skills as if conversing with a native speaker. Using natural language processing, a vital component of machine learning, the chatbots can hold a basic, friendly conversation with their ‘students’ in their language of choice. The bots were created to be friendly, conversational and available at any time of the day so users can practice their speaking skills on demand.

Botsify (AI: instant messaging)

Botsify is an educational chatbot which presents learning subjects to students in the form of images, text and videos via Messenger. Lessons are presented in a conversational-style format which creates an interesting form of education which has proven to be astounding. Students receive customised learning through increased interaction as the bot learns more about the student’s profile and constantly assesses their strengths and weaknesses pertaining to each topic through machine learning. After the students have learnt about a particular topic, Botsify then sends quizzes to test their understanding. The results are then submitted to their teachers so that their performance and progress are charted.

iTalk2Learn (AI: speech recognition)

iTalk2Learn is an online learning system designed for primary school students. Through chatbots, students are able to interact with the system as if they were communicating with a teacher. The bots utilise machine learning capabilities to design fully customised learning plans for each student according to their individual abilities and behaviours, taking into account their placement among their peers. Most interestingly, these bots harness advanced speech recognition capabilities which are able to interact and speak to each student and listen back to their answers, assessing their progress. The speech recognition abilities of the bots are also able to detect patterns of behaviour and attitude towards learning and identify affective states for knowledge absorption.

SnatchBot (AI: automation)

Not all educational chatbots are solely for the benefit of students — teachers need the assistance of assistants too. SnatchBot is a clever chatbot assistant which can be automated to free up time for teachers commonly spent on repetitive administrative tasks. This bot can be set up to answer many common student queries regarding course modules, lesson plans, assignments and deadlines which can take up a lot of a teacher’s time. But SnatchBot is able to delve deeper and can also be programmed to monitor the learning progress of each student and provide personalised feedback to each student regarding their progress. Through machine learning, the bot can analyse each student’s learning needs and recommend learning content to assist them in their progress.

Thirdspace Learning (AI: predictive capabilities)

Thirdspace Learning is one of the largest online mathematics education platforms in the UK. Through the platform’s chatbot harnessing machine learning capabilities, each student’s abilities are assessed and a fully personalised curriculum is created. Each student is assigned an online tutor who is able to communicate and assess their student’s progress in real-time. More interestingly is the chatbot’s predictive abilities as it analyses and searches for inconsistencies in each student’s learning data. For example, if the student misunderstands the task or if the teacher misses something important, the chatbot is able to identify the problems and warn the teacher before the problem begins to aggravate.

HEINEKEN Bar Battle (AI: Gamification)

How do you inform and incentivise barmen to promote your brand above your competitors, or other sales agents operating in indirect channels? HEINEKEN Netherlands, together with Greenberry creative agency, have created a concept for a series of mobile games in which players learn about products while playing and competing with their colleagues. To make the games more accessible, they can be played via Facebook messenger.

This particular bot is close to our hearts because HEINEKEN Netherlands along with their creative agency Greenberry approached WeAreBrain to help build their AI bot solution. At the outset, we found that our challenge was twofold. We needed to create a templated chatbot solution to support the core e-learning game rules, and allow the content creators to create multiple gamified e-learning challenges for different products in a user-friendly CMS backend. By developing a game template with gamification rules (game scenarios, scores, multimedia support, multiple player roles and push notifications) the HEINEKEN Bar Battle bot was able to facilitate learning on the job for third party salespeople and allow marketing managers to track participation and scores, while also providing real-time insights for the brand.

As in every industry which has received a baptism of AI disruption in recent years, the education industry is benefitting from AI’s many advantages, with the results being more satisfied and educated students. AI’s natural language processing, instant messaging, speech recognition, automation, and predictive capabilities are providing students across the world access to personalised education which is constantly evolving. Teachers are easily able to chart each student’s progress with AI chatbots delivering personalised progress reports in real-time.

And this is just the beginning. As AI continues to advance and finesse its capabilities, we will soon begin to witness a new era of education and the educated — the results of which will be a marvel to witness.

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