Using Chatbots for Remote Learning

Last Updated on September 28, 2020 by Sean B

During the pandemic, schools turned to remote learning to keep students and staff safe. Using Artificial Intelligence and chatbots for remote learning is a part of these efforts for many schools and colleges.

In April 2020, 191 different countries were forced to rethink the way they taught students. Shutting down Primary and Secondary Schools were shut down to keep the virus from spreading faster than it already was. According to an article by McKinsey & Company, that meant approximately 1.6 billion children were suddenly thrust into the unfamiliar remote learning environment.

While some School Systems managed to train their teachers and implement a remote learning plan quickly, the level of success varied. Other systems around the globe had difficulties. One of the major problems is that in many countries education is a local responsibility, so they often can’t rely on assistance from the larger Regional or National governments.

Fixing the issues around remote learning can be difficult. The age and maturity differences between a Kindergartener and a student in High School makes the issue even harder to fix. I know there is a joke in there somewhere about the maturity of high-school boys not being that different from a Kindergartener, but I’m going to remain professional and ignore it.

A distracted student giving the camera a funny look, shows why using chatbots for remote learning is needed.

Why Remote Learning Needs Chatbots

Obviously using chatbots during the pandemic to help with remote learning isn’t a perfect fix for everything, but using chatbots for remote learning can offer some interesting solutions to a number of problems in this new normal.

Above all, the safety of students and staff is the most important issue facing schools during the Coronavirus Pandemic. A single sick student could be in a classroom with 30 different students up to six times each day. That means in a traditional school environment, we can assume that sick student had close contact with about 150 other students and staff. That makes every single school day a potential super-spreader event. Teaching students remotely means they are only exposed to their family, so if they are sick, then only their family is at risk.

Younger students are difficult enough to keep on task even when there is a teacher in the room. But remote learning can help keep these wandering minds on task, particularly among younger students. Competing with the TV, Social Media, and other distractions means teachers need to use new technology that can interact with the students and keep them focused. Chatbots can also let the student learn when they need and without distraction.

Chatbots can be set to interact with students and prompt them regularly during study times. In the absence of direct student and teacher interaction, chatbots are allowing educators to provide answers to their questions faster. And because of the AI involved, they can help teach a variety of topics. They can also do this 24/7, so I believe that chatbots will become a permanent part of the schools that are using them out of necessity now. The best education chatbots also mean offering a variety of new ways to learn, meaning that students with learning difficulties are more able to keep up.

a friendly robot

Different Chatbots for Remote Learning

Some Chatbot Companies have created bots specifically for education, For example, Antares built QBot in partnership with Microsoft, a chatbot designed to answer student questions. QBot is an AI chatbot that uses machine learning to create a knowledge base that students can communicate with at any time. It’s also easy to develop and integrate at any scale.

Teachers can include lesson notes and videos in the chatbot as well, this means QBot can provide additional information above and beyond the answer, it can help the teacher teach the students what is behind the answer.

Other chatbot developers have introduced a variety of different solutions. There are also approaches like AdmitHub’s chatbot that helps incoming college freshmen find their way around campus and find resources like housing and financial aid. Oheyo has created an AI chatbot is helping students prepare for tests.

While some of these aren’t technically chatbots for remote learning, they do show the potential that chatbots have to change the learning environment.

In Conclusion

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a number of disruptions to the way we live, but one of the most difficult has been the forced home-schooling of almost 1.6 billion students. Using chatbots for remote learning can reduce the stress on already overworked teachers, while offering students an interactive and entertaining way to get answers to their questions.

If used properly, educational chatbots can make sure that students stay on task and continue to learn even in a difficult and distracting home environment. They can teach multiple subjects and can do so at the rate the student learns at.

Chatbots will never be a replacement to the traditional learning environment, and I can’t imagine a time when a teacher will be replaced by a chatbot, except perhaps in Science Fiction. But I think we’ll be seeing the use of chatbots in education continue to grow even after the pandemic is over.

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2 thoughts on “Using Chatbots for Remote Learning”

  1. I am not very good with technology, nor have I ever heard about chatbots, but this is very interesting. I do have school age children and children that are not school age. The shutdown of schools was especially rough on all of us. We also live in a very small area and technology is not that great. The children and their teachers had many, many problems trying to navigate the virtual learning world. Some days so much to a point the teachers just gave up. I would like to see something like chatbot be more known about and widely used. I think this resource would be incredibly valuable to our teachers. I also agree with you that I think some aspects of this shutdown, like more use of new technology will be staying with schools after things return more “normal.” Thanks so much for the education of chatbots.

    • Cheyenne,

      Thank you for the comment. I think we’ll see more schools adopting chatbots during this school year, the stress that teachers are under is building to a point where most School Districts will start looking for additional resources they can add to improve things. I’m not a parent, but several friends of mine are teachers, and I’ve seen ow hard it is on them as well as my friends who have kids. I’m hoping we’ll get back to “normal” in the Spring, but they’re now saying there is a potential of the Coronavirus becoming a seasonal illness like the flu.



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