Abstract: Despite being accessible and affordable, online education presents numerous challenges for online learners due to the absence of face-to-face interactions. Lack of community-belongingness, in particular, negatively impacts online learners’ learning outcomes and learning experience. To help online learners build communities and foster connections with their peers, we designed and deployed Jill Watson SA (stands for Social Agent). Jill Watson SA is a virtual agent who can match students with shared identity, defined by similarities in location, timezone, hobby, class schedule, etc., on the Piazza class discussion forum. We implemented Jill Watson SA in two online classes and conducted three short surveys with online students to evaluate Jill Watson SA.
The full paper “Jill Watson SA: Design and Evaluation of a Virtual Agent to Build Communities Among Online Learners” can be found here.