Ashok Goel needed help. In his regular courses at Georgia Tech, the computer science professor had at most a few dozen students. But his online class had 400 students — students based all over the world; students who viewed his class videos at different times; students with questions.
The reality of AI is both less dramatic and more impactful than the hype. We are entering a new era of computing that will bring tremendous change. The past thirty-plus years have seen the personalization of computing hardware, with single, big machines supplanted by supercomputers in everyone’s pockets and on-demand cloud services. This technical advance has brought individuals access to services anytime, anywhere and has spurred major transformations on college and university campuses.
There didn’t seem to be anything strange about the new teaching assistant, Jill Watson, who messaged students about assignments and due dates in professor Ashok Goel’s artificial intelligence class at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her responses were brief but informative, and it wasn’t until the semester ended that the students learned Jill wasn’t actually a “she” at all, let alone a human being. Jill was a chatbot, built by Goel to help lighten the load on his eight other human TAs.
College of Computing Professor Ashok Goel teaches Knowledge Based Artificial Intelligence (KBAI) every semester. It’s a core requirement of Georgia Tech’s online master’s of science in computer science program. And every time he offers it, Goel estimates, his 300 or so students post roughly 10,000 messages in the online forums — far too many inquiries for him and his eight teaching assistants (TA) to handle.