Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and MIT researchers have developed a new method to improve higher education by analyzing students’ online forum posts to predict reading material questions so teachers can intervene.
The Nota Bene (NB) forum, developed by MIT Prof. David Karger, is a web-based collaborative annotation tool that facilitates communication among and between students and their instructors. It is currently in use by thousands of students in dozens of courses given worldwide.
Dr. Ya’akov “Kobi” Gal, of BGU’s Department of Information Systems Engineering , and his student team used machine learning to analyze the students’ posts, accurately predicting what parts of the course gave them the most trouble in course reading material. Dr. Gal and his students previously developed the first online plan recognition algorithm that has been empirically shown to make accurate predictions in students’ use of open-ended, forum-based educational environments.
The BGU team worked in Prof. Karger’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, mapping how the students interacted in the forum. Thread length found in a post was used as a metric for determining student confusion on a given topic.
“There were hundreds of thousands of comments in the forum, but no one was looking at how the students were using them,” says Dr. Gal, who is also head of BGU’s Human-Computer Decision-Making Lab. “By analyzing posts from previous courses, we can improve the education process. We are identifying the threads that will generate confusion ahead of time and making this information available to instructors.”
This project is part of the BGU- MIT International Science and Technology Initiative Seed Fund launched last year that enables the faculty and scientists at the two universities to embark on new research endeavors.
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision, creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. With some 20,000 students on campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat in Israel’s southern desert, BGU is a university with a conscience, where the highest academic standards are integrated with community involvement, committed to sustainable development of the Negev. AABGU is headquartered in Manhattan and has nine regional offices throughout the U.S. For more information, please visit www.aabgu.org.