And, something else happened. Goel says using AI, in a course about AI, caught students by surprise. "They had been interacting with the TA all of this time, and you sort of assume that it's a human."
His human TAs, usually graduate students, used fake names in the online discussion forum and didn't attend class. So, just like Jill, they were totally anonymous.
Last semester, Goel says only a handful of students could tell when they were interacting with a human TA or an artificial TA.
"It's kind of fun trying to guess who's who." The whole thing became a game for Christopher Cassion after he saw a teaching assistant correctly answer a student's question, but quoting material from a previous semester.
"His reply was correct, but he quoted something that was nowhere to be found," Cassion says. "I don't know if the quote came up by mistake or if he generated the answer."
Same thing this semester — students have even started a poll to vote on who they think is real and who they think is AI. "Some of their guesses are right, some are not," says Goel. "I'm not going to tell them until the end of the semester."
He says his artificial intelligence teaching assistants are getting smarter by the day, engaging with students in longer discussions online.
"Raising Jill is like raising a young child," Goel says. "Initially when your child is very, very young, she just remembers all kinds of things she has heard from you, but she doesn't understand it."
He says the newest version of Jill now understands concepts. Eventually he wants to export these artificial teachers to countries like India to try to boost literacy rates.