Robo Tutors Surprisingly Effective

In a study across six American universities, students taught statistics through software learned about as well as students educated by real people.

According to an article by Steve Kolowich at Inside Higher Ed:

The study, called “Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities,” involved students taking introductory statistics courses at six (unnamed) public universities. A total of 605 students were randomly assigned to take the course in a “hybrid” format: they met in person with their instructors for one hour a week; otherwise, they worked through lessons and exercises using an artificially intelligent learning platform developed by learning scientists at Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative.

Researchers compared these students against their peers in the traditional-format courses, for which students met with a live instructor for three hours per week, using several measuring sticks: whether they passed the course, their performance on a standardized test (the Comprehensive Assessment of Statistics), and the final exam for the course, which was the same for both sections of the course at each of the universities.

While students did find the robotic software dull, students taking the course in hybrid learned the information about as well. They also learned it faster; according to the article, it took hybrid students one-quarter less time to learn the same material.

This is the first real evidence that some technology-based instruction can be effective. This study supports a ‘no-harm-done’ conclusion regarding at least one current prototype,” according to the report’s authors.

Yea, but you really don’t want to be there when administrators deny the robot-tutors tenure:

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer