Monday, July 23

Software Agents to Assist in Distance Learning Environments

Link to article (By Sheung-On Choy, Sin-Chun Ng, and Yiu-Chung Tsang)
"Software agents can act as teaching assistants for distance learning courses by monitoring and managing course activities

...A number of researchers have proposed the development of software agents in teaching and learning situations. Jafari conceptualized three types of software agents to assist teachers and students:

  1. Digital Teaching Assistant - assists the human teacher in various teaching functions
  2. Digital Tutor - helps students with specific learning needs
  3. Digital Secretary - acts as a secretary to assist students and teachers with various logistical and administrative needs"

This paper discusses a successful software agent pilot implementation of the first type in four Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) distance learning courses. The Digital Teaching Assistant carried out the following tasks:

  • "Send alert e-mails to inactive students (those who have not accessed the course Web site for a long period of time). The course coordinator decides the length of the inactive period and instructs the software agent to send the alert e-mails based on the established time.
    Send e-mails to inform tutors about inactive students and advise tutors to have proactive consultation with those students.
  • Send e-mail alerts to those students who have not downloaded a particular piece of course material or who have not read an important piece of course news since it was uploaded to the file server. This helps prevent students from missing information or forgetting to download an important item, such as an assignment file.
  • Help the course coordinator keep track of students? progress, and send e-mails to the coordinator and tutors about those students whose performance is at a marginal level.
  • Retrieve information from the course timetable and send reminder e-mails to students. For example, it might send a reminder to students five days before an assignment due date and one day before a face-to-face session.
  • During the period when assignments are submitted, the agent will monitor the assignment submission status and send e-mails after the due date to those students who have not submitted the assignment. It will also inform the course coordinator and tutors about those students."

In general, these tasks consume a lot of human effort for unintelligent information retrieval and processing, and with an agent such as the one mentioned above a lot of time can be saved on routine tasks, and more time can be spent on more productive activities, such as facilitating a more engaging online learning environment and content development.

A lot of lessons can be learned from this excellent article . Also, with more creativity and research I suppose the software agent can do a lot more stuff to minimize all the routine time wasting stuff most lecturers or facilitators hate to do.

Where is my R&D software agent to do my routine stuff ?

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