Students use AI to unlock factors that may predict success in remote learning

October 06, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State students involved in the Nittany AI Associates program, working alongside TEAMology — a startup exploring emotional health as a way to enhance a child’s ability to succeed in school — explored best pathways in the use of artificial intelligence to test resilience in students learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nittany AI Associates program is facilitated by the Nittany AI Alliance, a Penn State Outreach service, and gives Penn State students an opportunity to engage in real-world projects using AI, cloud computing and machine learning.

Linsey Covert, CEO and founder of TEAMology, said her company is developing ways to leverage AI to assist students and teachers with social and emotional learning (SEL) in the traditional classroom or in the eLearning setting.

“We are working to provide a way for students to communicate with Ruby Resiliency, a character they’ve already come to know and trust through the TEAMology curriculum, in an effort to provide critical information and feedback about the social and emotional health of students,” Covert said. “We are optimistic that this first testing phase with Ruby will lead to additional applications that will continue to help meet a student’s social and emotional well-being while providing critical data that can better inform teachers of the overall needs of students in their classrooms.”

Nittany AI Associates Miaosen Zhang, a sophomore majoring in information sciences and technology; Harsh Gupta, a junior majoring in data sciences; and Manasvi Mittal, a senior majoring in applied data science — all in the College of Information and Sciences Technology at Penn State — as well as Peyton Politewicz, program manager for the Nittany AI Alliance, were a part of this first testing phase by exploring ways technology might assist TEAMology in moving Ruby Resiliency forward.

“The work TEAMology is pursuing is truly novel. There is an abundance of literature that demonstrates the therapeutic quality of reflective writing as a student exercise, and the interpretation of that writing is what the company wants Ruby Resiliency to provide to educators,” Politewicz said. “The Nittany AI Associates developed ways to connect those exercises with natural language processing AI and deliver them to students via chatbot through TEAMology’s characters, while TEAMology took on the ‘heavy lifting’ of initial contact with students in need by picking up on cues that may indicate who may see benefit from counselor or faculty support.”

Meg Small, consultant and director of social innovation at the Prevention Research Center in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State, said the project is exploring the feasibility of machine learning and natural language processing to engage students in an interactive assessment of their resiliency strengths and opportunities for support.

“The COVID-19 pandemic will require resiliency competencies among other SEL skills to successfully adapt to the new school environment and social demands,” Small said. “Many schools were under-resourced prior to the pandemic and will now have to allocate scarce resources across a larger population of students requiring additional support. However, the situation also presents a window of opportunity to innovate, which is what Nittany AI Alliance and TEAMology are doing through the Ruby experience. By identifying students’ strengths and growth opportunities and mapping existing resources specifically to those areas, the Ruby experience can reduce the time burden for teachers providing tailored, actionable strategies consistent between home and school.”

Ben Franklin Technology Partners is an investor in TEAMology. Scott Johnson, entrepreneur in residence for Ben Franklin, served as an adviser on the Ruby Resiliency project.

“My role is to help TEAMology execute their vision to deliver a platform that allows schools to elevate their conveyance of SEL-related skills. Part of this vision requires that content for, and guidance to, students is accessible and engaging,” Johnson said. “The project with the Nittany AI Alliance was intended to be an early step in addressing that, while assisting students and educators screen for SEL-related needs and trends. This practical, AI-assisted approach is an important element in allowing schools to scale the real-world integration of SEL to meet the needs of children — needs that COVID-19 disruptions have simultaneously highlighted and made more difficult to address using conventional means.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 06, 2020