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Can a ‘Family of Bots’ Reshape College Teaching?

Can college students tell the difference between a human teaching assistant and a chatbot? A Georgia Tech computer scientist has been pursuing that question for several years. And the answer has profound implications for the future of college teaching.

Ashok K. Goel, a professor of computer science and cognitive science, and his team have refined perhaps the first robot teaching assistant, dubbed Jill Watson. Here’s the scenario: Last year in an online course on artificial intelligence with 400 students, two chatbots joined 13 human TAs to answer student questions about the course and its content. Students were told that software robots were in the mix, and they were challenged to identify which of the voices they were interacting with were human and which were machine.

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