Sara, the Lecturer: Improving Learning in Online Education with a Scaffolding-Based Conversational Agent
Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Enrollment in online courses has sharply increased in higher education. Although online education can be scaled to large audiences, the lack of interaction between educators and learners is difficult to replace and remains a primary challenge in the field. Conversational agents may alleviate this problem by engaging in natural interaction and by scaffolding learners' understanding similarly to educators. However, whether this approach can also be used to enrich online video lectures has largely
... ectures has largely remained unknown. We developed Sara, a conversational agent that appears during an online video lecture. She provides scaffolds by voice and text when needed and includes a voice-based input mode. An evaluation with 182 learners in a 2 x 2 lab experiment demonstrated that Sara, compared to more traditional conversational agents, significantly improved learning in a programming task. This study highlights the importance of including scaffolding and voice-based conversational agents in online videos to improve meaningful learning.