Academic Technology - Florida State College at Jacksonville

Academic Technology

Chatbots In Education: Are They Useful?

EdTechElizabeth Rodrigue

Recently, the term "Chatbot" has come to prominence in EdTech research. What is a Chatbot? They are software that allows for a conversational or messaging style interface to simulate a human interaction. They are computer programs that do their best to act like humans. Some Chatbots have artificial intelligence and many have a database of information and responses for whatever they are asked. Many people use Chatbots on a daily basis to shop, get directions, or even schedule appointments. Some examples of Chatbots would be Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, created by Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, respectively. Increasingly, people are turning to chatbots to control huge aspects of their life, as they can be used for organization, media consumption, and even to control your home's climate!  

How can Chatbots be used in education? Many colleges have already started using or discussing the idea of Chatbots as part of the learning experience. The general idea is that a Chatbot software would make it simpler for students to navigate their classes and college life while making it easier for professors and staff by answering the repetitive questions for them and freeing up more space for more in-depth academic interactions. So, students would be able to turn to the Chatbot for class times and room numbers, when assignments are due, applying for student aid, registering for classes, and other routine queries. An example of successful implementation of a chatbot is Georgia State's AdmitHub so that their students could complete all of the typical student actions, such as signing up for housing, through a simple chat interface.

Another example of a working Chatbot in education is integrated into the foreign language learning software Duolingo. Learners can hold a text-based conversation in the language they are studying that revolves around a specific concept. the responses entered into the interface determine the direction of the conversation, which helps one to practice language organically, in  a way that is more useful for retention and more authentic to the real-world speaking and writing experience.

Chatbot technology is still relatively new so humans have to respond to and edit content on occasion.  In the future, it is a hope that chatbots will be able to "learn" organically, so that human interaction will enable them to gain more knowledge that they can then use in future interactions.  All in all Chatbots can make a significant difference in education but we still have a long way to go with the technology so that Chatbots can completely function on their own.