How can Taylor help students with disabilities in Higher Education?

On Wednesday, July 21st, 35 people gathered online to learn more about ADMINS (Assistants to the disclosure and management of information about needs and support), a completed project funded by Microsoft and managed by the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) at The Open University (OU). The speaker of this seminar was Dr Tim Coughlan, a senior lecturer in IET, who was part of the research team leading the project. “But, who is Taylor?”– you may be wondering at this point if you are curious to know the answer to the question raised in the title of this post. Continue reading

Can computers detect social bias?

The first 2021 seminar of the Special Interest Group focused on Artificial Intelligence in Education (openAIED SIG) was led by Josmario Albuquerque, a second-year PhD student at the OU Institute of Educational Technology, on Wednesday 7th July.

With a background in Computer Science, Josmario has been involved in IT projects related to Artificial Intelligence in Education, Learning Analytics, and the use of Computer Science to address social issues. His current research fits under the scope of these past projects, since he is studying group biases in online learning settings. During the seminar, Josmario suggested that human biases and stereotypes are still present in educational settings, diminishing several aspects of learning. Continue reading

openAIED SIG: 7th July

Join us online for the next openAIED Special Interest Group on Wednesday 7th July at (14:00 – 15:30) for a presentation from Josmario Albuquerque (further details below) and updates from Dr Duygu Bektik and Dr Francisco Iniesto.

Uncovering social biases in online learning: insights from bias-detection approaches applied to the OU
Josmario Albuquerque

Abstract
Online educational technologies have transformed learning and teaching processes. For instance, researchers have proposed mechanisms to improve both students’ and teachers’ experience, e.g., tools to enhance collaboration, improve student engagement, and help teachers in designing and delivering new learning resources. However, despite the benefits of such technologies, recent findings have showed that issues related to social justice like human biases and stereotypes are still present in educational settings. Researchers have also shown that such issues can diminish several aspects of learning, e.g., academic performance, students’ confidence, and reduce engagement. In this presentation, I aim to highlight what is being used to uncover group biases in learning settings and share preliminary findings of exiting computational approaches applied to the OU VLE. A sample of 2024 sentences sampled from 91 OU modules across several disciplines was extracted and used as the input for two bias-detection algorithms. While potential biases were suggested by those approaches within the modules analysed, the extent to which those biases are relevant for an educational setting is questionable. Those results and the limitations of those mechanisms will be discussed, as well as implications and directions for future research in Artificial Intelligence in Education.

Bio
Josmario Albuquerque is currently a second-year research student at the Institute of Educational Technology, Open University. His current research focuses on group bias in online learning settings, where he expects to provide a mechanism to help the identification of racial biases in learning materials. Previously, he has investigated gender stereotypes in educational technologies while completing his master’s degree at the Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil. With a background in Computer Science, he has taken part in a few IT projects that include: developing an authoring tool to help tutors create customised Intelligent Tutoring Systems and improve students’ performance; and designing a video-monitoring learning analytics platform to inform tutors and school managers about the learning processes of bilingual students in a language school. Josmario’s interests include Artificial Intelligence in Education, Learning Analytics, and the general use of Computer Science to address social issues.

All are welcome. Please email openTEL for an invite or feel free to share the invite with those who would like to attend.

openTEL Completed Projects Seminar

Join us on Wednesday 21st July (11:00 -12:30) for a presentation on the ADMINS project from Dr Tim Coughlan followed by facilitated discussion. All are welcome. For an invitation please contact openTEL. Recording Link (OU Staff)

ADMINS: Designing and evaluating a virtual assistant for disability disclosure and study support conversations
Dr Tim Coughlan

Abstract
Many disabled students face substantial administrative burden and stressful processes to get the support they are entitled to for study. New students may also not be aware of how they will study or the support that can be available to them. These issues have the potential to impact on attainment and experience. In the ADMINS project, our goal was to work with students and staff to build an alternative approach. We designed ‘Taylor’, a chatbot virtual assistant who introduces OU study, asks students about their needs and answers their questions. The main project trial was devised to test Taylor in a realistic environment and compare the experience to an existing form-based process. 134 new students used Taylor as they disclosed disabilities to the OU. The results were positive about the potential for this type of solution and also suggest key areas for future work and improvement.

Bio
Tim Coughlan is a senior lecturer in the Institute of Educational Technology, and led the ADMINS project. His areas of research include designing and evaluating technologies for accessibility and inclusion, understanding student experiences, and supporting online teaching.

L@S: The New SIG of openTEL

The launch of our new Special Interest Group: Learning at Scale (L@S SIG) happened on Wednesday, May 26th, 2021. Dr Shi Min Chua led the first online meeting of the SIG, which featured a presentation from a Senior Lecturer at The Open University (The OU). The interdisciplinary event welcomed 21 people across the university who had the opportunity to share their work on L@S with others.

Dr Anna Comas-Quinn kicked off the session with her presentation: Learning beyond the classroom: online volunteer translationShe shared findings from her doctoral research project that explored the experiences of a global sample of online volunteer translators. Anna also reported on two action research projects (Comas-Quinn & Fuertes-Gutiérrez, 2019Cámara & Comas-Quinn, 2016) that piloted and implemented the use of online volunteer translation activities in language and translation teaching.

The meeting was then followed by a roundtable discussion with academics and researchers interested in learning more about the SIG. Attendees mentioned how their research and practice related to learning at scale. All the members in the meeting agreed that The OU is a pioneer of this learning modality, considering the large number of students taking distance learning modules at our institution since 1969.

The organiser also prompted the attendees to think of the aspects they would like to explore further in the upcoming sessions of the SIG. They mentioned the following topics for the L@S SIG agenda of 2021:

  • Impact on learners & educators
  • The methodology and data used to research L@S
  • The context of L@S in developing countries, including F2F and community centres
  • Automated feedback
  • Learning Analytics
  • MOOCs
  • Digital badges
  • Microcredentials
  • Self-regulated learning
  • Learners’ disposition and cultural influences
  • Assessment at Scale
  • The distinction between delivery and learning at scale

One of the members shared their thoughts on L@S and wrote: “What dimensions can ‘scale’ have? Obviously, the number of learners, but inspired by Anna’s talk and other comments, others come to mind. E.g. number of Learners, Teachers, Subjects (Sciences, Languages, Arts etc.), Pedagogical approaches, Technologies used, Communication media (audio, video, text, image, hypertext etc.), Distance (various forms: physical, transactional…), Languages, Emotions”. Another attendee shared an interesting article on students who set up their study support at scale in places like YouTube and Reddit. These platforms are part of The Study Web, “a constellation of digital spaces and online communities—across YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, Discord, and Twitter—largely built by students for students”.

The discussions from the meeting will inform the future SIG events. If you would like to keep up to date with the Learning At Scale SIG agenda, please email us to add your name to the new L@S mailing list.