“Transparent AI Will Revolutionize Online Learning”

Leveraging What Makes Us Human to Benefit the Learning Process: An Interview with Walter Bender

Zoe Mackay, Chris Dowhan | IBL News

Walter Bender, the Chief Learning Architect at Sorcero and the founder of Sugar Labs and One Laptop One Child, shared with IBL News how transparent AI will revolutionize online learning following his talk at the Open edX conference last month in San Diego. The main goal, he posits, is to leverage what makes us human to become part of the learning process.

His talk, “Beyond the Black Box: How Transparent AI can Transform Learning,” focused on the strides that Sorcero is making with AI and online learning. With his extensive experience in academia and accessible and open online education, he says his experiences were “a case study for transparency, for providing tools and a framework.”

The natural extension from this was to switch gears and talk about AI, the “tool du jour in machine learning these days.”

One of the largest issues with machine learning, says Bender, is that “it’s completely opaque. The people using these tools don’t know how they work, they don’t know the consequences of what they are doing and there is no way to really relate to these tools.”

At Sorcero, they are taking a different approach, he says, by building “a hybrid AI that uses natural language processing in a much more structured way that is more similar to the way people understand the language… When it fails, it fails in a very human way…as opposed to having some strictly statistical model.”

He exemplifies the benefits of Sorcero’s approach while discussing the tools they’ve built for learner’s to ask questions. The AI first attempts to understand the questions, which may include a back and forth between the learner. If the question can be answered by the AI, it will answer, but if it cannot, it will consult the subject matter expert.

“One of the things that have happened repeatedly in our pilots is that the subject matter expert will say, ‘well why are they asking that?’ Well, they’re asking that because that’s the question that [the student] got, and that’s not what you taught them. So maybe you should think about teaching them that because that’s the kind of thing that they are bumping up against. So it is exposing these gaps. It’s providing some structure, feedback, and guidance to the SME as well in the mentoring process.”

A great benefit, he adds, is that “it’s really easy to drop into Open edX and use outside of Open edX as well.”

Watch the full interview with Walter Bender in the video below.



Open edX Conference 2019 “Beyond the Black Box”