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ED Awards $7.6 Million Grant to Georgia State U and Partner Schools to Study AI Chatbots and Student Outcomes

Georgia State University's (GSU) National Institute for Student Success (NISS) has received a $7.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (ED)'s Postsecondary Student Success Program to study how chatbots affect student outcomes at GSU, its associate institution Perimeter College, and its partner schools, Morgan State University in Maryland, and the University of Central Florida.

The chatbots will be used in first-year math and English courses. The NISS grant will fund the establishment of text-based chatbots and support a team of scholars from Brown, Harvard, and Stanford universities, and the Brookings Institution to evaluate their success in helping to improve student math and English outcomes.

Tim Renick, NISS founder and project lead, said the goal is to provide personal and timely support to students in these courses, assisting the efforts of their educators. The bots will answer basic questions about course material, remind students of deadlines, and offer encouragement and tips. The project is based on previous studies that show AI-enhanced chatbots increase grades and retention rates among lower-income and first-generation students, according to NISS.

In 2016, GSU piloted the AI-enhanced chatbot, Pounce, to help reduce "summer melt," wherein students are accepted to college but fail to register for fall classes. Thanks to Pounce, which was accessed 185,000 times by incoming freshmen, that number dropped from 19% to 9%, according to Renick.

"Because of their schedules, students with jobs and families currently are less likely to attend after-class tutoring and study sessions," Renick said. "The chatbots we are developing can support students 24/7, answer questions after hours and keep students on track in these challenging courses."

To learn more about the grant and what the chatbot program hopes to accomplish, read GSU's announcement.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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