TUTORBOT: a chatbot tutor for learners in VET

When you want to learn a new skill to get a job or change your career, the first thing you might do is to is to register for a course. They say that the first step is the hardest, but it does not mean that the next ones are easy. You might feel that your teacher explains too fast, you might get lost when you review your lessons, and sometimes you would just like to go deeper into the notions you are studying. These are all the reasons we are creating Tutorbot, a chatbot tutor for learners in Vocational Education and Training (VET). …Now, what’s a chatbot?

Maybe you never heard the word “chatbot”, but there are good chances you have used one. According to the Oxford Dictionaries , a chatbot is “a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.” Remember that conversation you had with an assistant when you bought your last books or concert tickets online? That was probably a chatbot.

Conversational robots allow you to ask questions online even when no one is available to type back.
(Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

In other words, chatbots can deliver information to a user through a messaging platform. As of today, most chatbots are used for commercial purposes, but they could be great for education. According to Bill Gates, personalized learning thanks to Artificial Intelligence is the future of education. Imagine having a little helper available anywhere, anytime, that can help you study at your own pace, on your own device, when you are ready for some studying? That is the role chatbots could fulfil in education. This is why, with Tutorbot, we want to create chatbots to tutor learners in Vocational Education and Training in subjects related to specific curricula.

The good news is that chatbots can not only support students, but also teachers. Teaching involves explaining key notions multiple times, evaluating the progress of the class to leave no one behind while keeping the most advanced intellectually stimulated, designing and grading exercises and tests, correcting them, and so on. It requires maintaining a fine and ever-changing equilibrium and keeping in mind several factors. Chatbots could help evaluate these factors and take care of the most repetitive aspects of teaching. They can repeat explanations in different ways, provide material to go behind the scope of the lesson for the most motivated, offer quizzes and exercises and mark them. And, whenever they cannot provide an answer to satisfy the learners’ needs, they can always transfer the question for the teacher to take over. By identifying what students succeed in or struggle with and synthesizing the results of the group for the teacher, chatbots can provide useful feedback and help the teacher tailor their lessons and class activities.

With the help of chatbots, teachers could spend more time teaching rather than marking tests.
(Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash)

In Tutorbot, not only will we design 4 chatbots in VET subjects, but also a chatbot creation platform for teachers to use and create a chatbot tailored to their own needs, for example in a new class. This platform will also come with recommendations on how to use a chatbot as part of the learning and teaching experience.

In short, the partners of the Tutorbot project will provide the following Open Educational Resources:

  • A chatbot creation platform for teachers to create their own chatbots,
  • 4 chatbots tailored for courses in VET,
  • A chatbot design guide that will cover the pedagogical, technical and user experience aspects of designing a chatbot,
  • A chatbot creation training module to support teachers and trainers to create other chatbots in the future.

This project started in October 2018 and will last for 2 years. It is co-financed by the Erasmus + programme of the European Commision.

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