The World's First AI Teaching Assistant Turns 4

Timeline: Jill Watson AI at 4yo

Georgia Tech’s most well-known artificially intelligent teaching assistant, Jill Watson, turns four years old this month. The brainchild of Ashok Goel, professor in Interactive Computing, and launched at the start of 2016, the virtual TA was introduced in one of the courses for the then-fledgling Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) program, now one of Georgia Tech’s largest graduate degree programs.

Students and faculty would be forgiven for thinking Jill Watson is a single teaching assistant. Each course that uses the Jill TA has its own custom “knowledge base” that the AI leverages to answer basic student questions 24/7.

Explore the Timeline of Jill’s Growth

In addition, a new AI, the Jill Social Agent, was designed and launched in 2019 to explicitly connect students quickly and get them working together. The agent was developed in part as a response to high attrition rates that plague online learning in general.

The lead architect for the Jill Social Agent, Ida Camacho, (OMSCS 19), discusses the AI on an episode of the Tech Unbound Podcast from the GVU Center. It’s a fascinating inside look at Camacho’s approach to building social structures for online education and her own journey as an OMSCS student.

Other major milestones from the Jill TA in 2019:

  • Introduced in residential classroom for first time.
  • Deployed in first non-CS course (Intro to Biology).
  • Customized to train users on the VERA AI, an ecology modeling system.
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The new decade promises more educational advances made possible by the Jill Watson AI framework. Learn more at emprize.gatech.edu.