MIEM Professor Develops Chatbot to Motivate Students
HSE MIEM Professor Alexander Varnavsky has developed a chatbot to increase the success of implementing a ‘Flipped Classroom’ approach in his teaching. He presented the bot at the International Conference-Competition of Innovative Educational Technology held at Moscow State University, where it took first place in the ‘Information and Pedagogical Technology’ category.
One of the main tasks of the flipped classroom approach (or ‘blended learning’) is to make students more independent by reducing the role of the teacher. In this model, students learn new course content on their own before class by completing online lectures or reviewing new materials at home. After previewing and working with the new material, students come to class to discuss what they have learned and ask questions.
However, the method has drawbacks. For example, a student may not have time to complete an online lecture or, if a student does not have the opportunity to clarify something, he or she may lose the motivation for further study.
‘A year ago, over the course of two modules, I periodically surveyed students so that I could better plan the seminar,’ says Professor Alexander Varnavsky of the School of Computer Engineering at the HSE Tikhonov Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM HSE). ‘The results of my surveys showed that only a small percentage of students do the homework for the seminar, and that more than half do not do it. In order to change this disappointing statistic, I developed the bot.’
The surveys also revealed that most students view course material on their smartphones. This information gave rise to the idea of a chatbot that would encourage students to engage with the material and prepare for class. The chatbot both reminds students about incomplete assignments and gives them practice tests so they can test their knowledge.
‘The chatbot acts as a teaching assistant. Its main task is to remind students about the upcoming seminar, provide a link to the material that needs to be reviewed in addition to the quizzes that they need to take in order to get a handle on the material,’ says Professor Varnavsky. ‘If a student scores poorly on a quiz or has not reviewed the assigned material yet, the bot reminds him or her about it. For the teacher, the bot collects student statistics and test results, when then helps him or her assess students’ preparedness both individually and as a group.’
The bot is currently only compatible with messenger, but Professor Varnavsky plans to adapt it for use on the HSE LMS platform.