Meet Jill Watson: Georgia Tech's first AI teaching assistant

November 10, 2016 | By GTPE Communications
Artificial intelligence representation surrounded by data and code

Professor Ashok Goel recently gave a talk at TEDxSanFrancisco about the use of artificial intelligence to answer students' questions in the forums for his online Knowledge-Based Artificial Intelligence (KBAI) class. Dubbed Jill Watson, the AI teaching assistant was based on IBM's Watson platform, which is perhaps best known as the computer that beat two Jeopardy champions. Jill was developed specifically to handle the high number of forum posts by students enrolled in an online course that is a requirement for Georgia Tech's online master of science in computer science program.

Goel and a team of Georgia Tech graduate students began building Jill Watson last year. She began providing responses to student questions in January, and in his talk, Goel describes some of the early problems Jill experienced and what the team did to make her answers better.

Students in the course were unaware that Jill was not a real person. However, some students suspected that, because it was an AI course, it was possible that there was an AI in use in the forums. Goel tells the story about how students reacted upon learning that Jill wasn't human, which included a number of humorous responses that he shares in the full talk, which can be viewed below.

A teaching assistant named Jill Watson | Ashok Goel | TEDxSanFrancisco

Ashok Goel believes he can use artificial intelligence to scale personalized learning. When he used an AI teaching assistant in one of his classes, none of his students noticed.

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