A workshop that brings togather social scientists and computer scientists to discuss the possibilities for companions and pedagogical agents to enhance learning and education, both now and in the future.

This one day workshop will bring together social scientists and computer scientists to discuss the possibilities for companions and pedagogical agents to enhance learning and education both now and in the future. The workshop will be based around six presentations allowing time for discussion throughout the day. Four broad themes will inform the debate:

  • The effect of particular characteristics of the learning companion (eg appearance, level of anthropomorphism, voice, name, emotions and affective state) on user’s engagement, interest, enjoyment and motivation

  • The impact of learning companions and pedagogical agents on learning outcomes

  • Natural language processing, conversation and learning companions

  • The future possibilities for learning companions and pedagogical agents


Winslow Burleson: Learning Companions and Motivational Environments for Life-Long Learning

The Motivational Environments research agenda is advancing Human-Computer Interaction methods, theories, technologies, architectures, and environments that incorporate wearable and ambient sensors, responsive spaces, robots and relational agents to promote creativity, teamwork, learning, and motivation. Affective Learning Companions, real-time multi-modal characters are beginning to sense and respond to learners’ affective cues. Game As Life is extending avant-garde ‘real-life games’ and blurring motivations in everyday digital-physical-social environments. Astronaut Robot Mission Simulators and Pet-Building activities are promoting project based teams and education through novel Human-Robot Interactions. Creativity research methodologies and support tools are being advanced through empirical investigations in research organizations and everyday life experience and through the development computer supported collaborative environments. This suite of technologies and activities is forming a transdisciplinary framework and context to study and foster life-long motivation, learning, teamwork, and creativity.

Lynne Hall: Increasing user engagement in the evaluation of Learning Companions and Pedagogical Agents

Learning companions and pedagogical agents are frequently developed within interdisciplinary research projects, with considerable demands placed upon their evaluation. This can result in a tiresome burden of instruments and activities for the user, particularly if the evaluation is provided as a discrete, separate activity. Here, an alternative approach to the evaluation of pedagogical agents is presented. This approach developed within the eCIRCUS project places the evaluation within the learning experience rather than as a separate event. The presentation will discuss the evaluation of ORIENT (Overcoming Refugee Integration with Empathic Novel Technology) an educational role play environment aimed at 13-14 year olds and focused on friendship dynamics and integration. The key results from this approach and its impact on the user experience will be outlined. Finally, the benefits and costs of using in-context evaluation for other learning companions and pedagogical agents will be discussed.

Natalie Person: From Auto Tutor to Guru: An Overview of Intelligent Tutoring Systems with Natural Dialogue and Emotion Detection

Over the past 12 years, researchers at the Institute for Intelligent Systems have been developing intelligent tutoring systems that simulate the teaching strategies of effective human tutors. Systems have been developed for various domains including computer science, physics, critical thinking, and most recently, biology. All of these systems include pedagogical agents that assist learners as they interact with multimedia interfaces. The ITSs that we have developed are specifically designed to simulate the pedagogical dialogue of human tutors and to engage students in conversations about various domain topics. Results from extensive outcome studies indicate that students do learn when interacting with our systems (effect sizes of 0.4 to 1.0). Our most recent system GURU simulates the dialogue of expert human tutors and incorporates a pedagogical agent that converses with the learner to help them learn biology. Guru is equipped with a camera, eyetracker, and posture sensor that are used to detect student engagement and emotion.

Carolyn Rose: Engaging Collaborative Learners with Helping Agents

This talk presents recent research in a multi-year effort to optimize the design of dynamic support for collaborative design learning in the domain of thermodynamics, using an integration of the Virtual Math Teams (VMT) collaboration environment developed at Drexel University, with pedagogical agents developed at Carnegie Mellon University that are triggered dynamically in the midst of the collaboration by means of an automatic analysis of the collaborative discussion as it unfolds. Using an accompanying simulation environment developed at Northwestern University, students are able to implement design ideas using graphical interface widgets, and to explore the relationships between the settings of various parameters within the design. They share their design ideas with one another through the collaboration environment. The pedagogical agents support their reflection and learning in the midst of these design discussions. In the recent study Carolyn will describe, they specifically focused on issues related to ‘Green Design’ with Rankine cycle based power plants. In the collaborative design exercise, students worked in pairs to struggle with trade-offs between power output and environmental friendliness in the design of thier power plant. The experimental manipulation contrasted alternative strategies for integrating the pedagogical agents with the student discussions in terms of learning gains, perception of collaboration and of the collaboration environment, as well as dynamics of the conversations themselves.

Chris Davies and Rebecca Eynon: A Learning Companion for Adult Informal Learning

The aim of the Learning Companion project at the University of Oxford is to develop a technical tool that helps adults to make more productive use of the web for their personal, self-directed learning, which they might undertake simply for their own satisfaction, or in order to improve their personal circumstances in some practical way. The tool, called the Learning Companion, encompasses a computer-based ‘conversational agent’ – in effect, an animated speaking character on a computer screen – designed to give practical support, guidance and focus to the independent learning activities of adults who currently lack the confidence or the opportunity to take part in organised learning, but who might be prepared to study topics of their own choice in their homes using the Internet. In contrast to earlier work in this area, the domain expertise (apart from generic IT skills) is not provided as part of the learning environment. Instead the learning companion encourages the user to engage with the variety of information sources and expertise on the Internet. Thus its educative role will be primarily in providing responsive and enabling interactions that lead learners towards taking control over their own learning. This presentation will report the findings from phase 1 of the research that aims to evaluate the feasibility of the Learning Companion by using a ‘Wizard of Oz’ methodology: an experimental procedure which elicits data of how human subjects engage in dialogue with computers. This presentation will discuss the kinds of interactions adult learners had with the tool, exploring how individuals engage in simulated human-machine conversations for educational purposes, how the Learning Companion is perceived by the target group and consider if and to what extent such a Learning Companion can facilitate learning despite not teaching any domain-specific content knowledge.

About the speakers

  • Professor Rebecca Eynon

    Affiliation: Lecturer and Research Fellow, Department of Education and Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

    Dr Rebecca Eynon is a Lecturer in e-Learning at the Department of Education and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Her research interests include the use of ICTs for adult and higher education, young people’s experiences of new technologies for learning outside school and the use of online methods to explore e-learning. Rebecca has worked on a number of studies in this area including projects funded by Becta, the European Commission and the Economic and Social Research Council. Prior to working at the University of Oxford, Rebecca has worked at the Centre for Mass Communication Research, University of Leicester, the School of Education, University of Birmingham, the Department of Sociology and Cultural Studies at Birmingham and the Department of Sociology, City University

  • Professor Yorick Wilks

    Affiliation: Professor of Computer Science, OII and University of Sheffield
  • Winslow Burleson

    Affiliation: Assistant Professor of Human Computer Interaction, School of Computing and Informatics and the Arts, Media, and Engineering graduate program, Arizona State University

    Winslow Burleson is an Assistant Professor of Human Computer Interaction with a joint appointment in the School of Computing and Informatics and the Arts, Media, and Engineering graduate program at Arizona State University. He received his PhD from the MIT Media Lab, working with the Affective Computing and Life Long Kindergarten research groups. He has also worked with the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School on creativity research methodologies and frequently serves on National Academies of Science organizing committees and NSF Review Panels. At IBM’s Almaden Research Center he was awarded ten patents for inventing educational and assistive technologies and novel forms of human-computer interaction. He holds a bachelor’s degree in bio-physics from Rice University and a Master of Science in Engineering degree from Stanford University’s Mechanical Engineering Product Design Program where he taught brainstorming, creativity, and visual thinking skills. His research is supported by awards and gifts from NSF, NASA-JPL, Deutsche Telekom, iRobot, and LEGO Group. He has been a Curriculum Developer at the NASA-SETI Institute, Co-Principal Investigator on the Hubble Space Telescope’s Investigation of Binary Asteroids, member of the LEGO Learning Institute, and Consultant to UNICEF and the World Scout Bureau on Healthy Lifestyles for Youth.

  • Chris Davies

    Affiliation: Lecturer, Department of Education, University of Oxford

    Chris Davies established the e-Learning Research Group at the Oxford University Education Department. He was the lead education expert in the collaborative team which conceptualized and designed Immersive Education’s kar2ouche software, and led the research project investigating its impact within classrooms. He was lead author for the UK version of Intel’s Teach to the Future programme. He is a Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute. As Vice President of Kellogg College he helped to expand provision for part-time study at Oxford University, as well as managing the process of designing and gaining planning consent for new college buildings. He is Course Director for the Oxford University MSc in e-Learning, and is currently Project Director for a Becta-funded study looking at young people’s uses of technology for learning away from school.

  • Lynne Hall

    Affiliation: Principal Lecturer for Reachout in the Department of Computing, Engineering and Technology at the University of Sunderland

    Lynne Hall is Principal Lecturer for Reachout in the Department of Computing, Engineering and Technology at the University of Sunderland and Deputy Coordinator of the EU FP6 eCIRCUS project (2006-09). She is an interdisciplinary academic with significant experience as a user experience practitioner, in both industry and academia. She has published over 50 papers mainly in the area of the participatory design and evaluation of intelligent computer assisted role play environments, populated by pedagogical agents for Personal, Social and Emotional learning experiences for children and teenagers.

  • Natalie Person

    Affiliation: Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Department of Psychology, Rhodes College

    is an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. She is the Director of the Learning, Language, and Technologies Lab at Rhodes and is the former Executive Director of the Institute for Intelligent Systems at The University of Memphis. She received her PhD in Cognitive Psychology in 1994 from The University of Memphis. Dr Person has an interdisciplinary research program that bridges the fields of Psychology and Learning Sciences. She is particularly interested in developing innovative programs and technologies that will improve science education in K-12 and college classrooms for underserved and underrepresented populations. Her research interests include tutoring, conversational discourse, complex learning, question asking and answering, models of effective teaching, artificial intelligence, and affective computing. Dr Person has received grant awards from the National Science Foundation, The Institute for Defense Analyses, Institute for Education Sciences, the Office of Naval Research, and the US Congress. She is currently a Co-PI on an IES funded project entitled Guru: A Computer Tutor that Models Expert Human Tutors. The goal of this project is to develop an intelligent tutoring system that will help Tennessee high school students learn about biology and ultimately improve their performance on the state mandated exit exams. Dr Person has over 50 peer-reviewed publications and has presented numerous papers at psychology, education, and computer science conferences.

  • Carolyn Rose

    Affiliation: Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Science, Language Technologies Institute and the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

    Carolyn Penstein Rose is an Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University with a joint appointment between the Language Technologies Institute and the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. She serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the International Society of the Learning Sciences and co-thrust leader of the Social and Communicative Factors thrust of the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center. Her research in the Language technologies community focuses on discourse analysis, sentiment analysis, summarization, and dialogue systems. The driving question behind her research in the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning community is how to develop technology capable of both shaping conversation and supporting conversation to achieve a positive impact on human learning.

This page was last modified on 15 March 2017