Learnings from the “Leveraging Generative AI to Enhance Learner Outcomes” Open edX Meetup

Just about every month, the Open edX Community has a meetup. The goal of these meetups is typically to demonstrate emerging technologies, ideas, and accomplishments in the edTech space and within the Open edX platform. In October 2023, the topic was “Leveraging Generative AI to Enhance Learner Outcomes” and I was lucky enough to have had the chance to be a co-presenter for Edly’s venture into the Generative AI space.

The meetups are typically delivered through Gather Town, a nifty platform where you are represented by an avatar, just like what you’d see in Pokemon or another 90s-era video game, to enter the dedicated community space. You get to walk around the virtual space and use the community chat or your webcam and audio to meet and talk to other participants. You can also head to the presentation area to see the presenters. After typically three 20-minute presentations, you can meet up with the presenters in the conference hall.

It’s a fun way to have the experience of a conference from the convenience of your laptop. But beyond the Gather Town platform, there was a lot more to experience this time around.

The Generative AI Presentations

Edly was one of three presenters this time. Alongside DataArt and Raccoon Gang, Edly delivered a presentation on the topic of Generative AI. More specifically, how to use Generative AI within the edTech and eLearning space. And even more specifically, how these use cases can be leveraged and complemented within the Open edX platform. Topics and considerations included known challenges within ChatGPT and OpenAI, like AI hallucinations, data privacy, implementation strategies, and use cases. 

DataArt led the presentations with a discussion on how they’re using ChatGPT within their Open edX platform and Raccoon Gang covered the use of AI mediation within existing Open edX content types, namely the Open Response Assessment. Both presentations also acknowledged the technical limitations and considerations for AI within edTech and gave a walkthrough of their solutions’ capabilities and enhancements to the Open edX platform. 

My first takeaway is a pretty obvious one: it’s nice to see that multiple Open edX providers are diligently working on incorporating Generative AI tools like ChatGPT into the Open edX ecosystem. It’ll be no surprise to see their solutions become a native part of Open edX, accommodating more opportunities for providers to collaborate on bringing AI technologies like these and more into Open edX.

Edly’s presentation built upon multiple considerations about AI and the Open edX platform. We also had a chance to introduce our solutions for the ChatGPT XBlock and the AI Coach XBlock. XBlocks are the modules, plugins, widgets, and enhancements that can be added to instances of Open edX (like embedding Google Docs or Google Calendars into your Open edX course). They’re created and maintained by members of the Open edX community and can then be pulled into customers’ Open edX instances.

Read more on enabling xBlocks in your course here.

The ChatGPT XBlock

The ChatGPT XBlock has three main use cases: Debate On a Topic, Quiz Me, and Talk to Historical Figures. For each use case, you provide ChatGPT a prompt, and then the bot functions within those parameters. Prompts and examples for each use case are shared below:

  • Debate On a Topic 
    • Prompt: your job is to debate with high school students at their level. Always ask the students if they want to debate in favor of or against the topic.
    • Example: learners must debate about the topic “Should the US government cancel the student debt or not.”
  • Quiz Me
    • Prompt: give me 10 questions on a topic. I will answer them and then you should help me in a Socratic manner to understand the concepts.
    • Example: the topic is machine learning and the learner must have a qualified back-and-forth conversation with the chatbot about it to improve their topic comprehension.
  • Talk to Historical Figures
    • Prompt: you need to act as a historical figure. Use the tone that best matches that specific historical figure. Try to help the user with their questions with appropriate passion suited to your temperament as the historical figure.
    • Example: a student in a physics class wants to have a conversation with Robert Oppenheimer. 

The goal of the ChatGPT XBlock is to leverage an LLM (Large Language Model) to provide learners with a sophisticated, interactive learning environment. Each of the use cases above can be used for a variety of courses for learners of differing ages. While some of the examples above might seem more focused on students in primary school, high school, or college, you could just as easily adapt each use case to your organization’s needs. 

My big takeaway from our presentation was the variety of ways to incorporate a chatbot within your courses. Imagine taking a course on the Manhattan Project and then having the chance to talk to Robert Opennheimer one-on-one about both the physics and feelings that led up to the project. Or imagine asking Fred Flintstone what it’s like living in 10,000 BC–yes, that’s something you could yabba dabba do. These kinds of interactions were unheard of even five years ago and can now be added to your courses after a few keystrokes.

The AI Coach XBlock

We’ve written at length about our AI Coach XBlock but, at a high level, the XBlock is designed to guide learners on how to improve the quality of their answers through an AI Coach. The learner inputs responses to a topic and then the AI Coach reviews those responses and gives feedback and suggestions on how to craft a better response. It’s a simple but effective way to improve the quality of responses from your learners while also providing them immediate feedback on where to improve. For this part of the presentation, we focused on bringing AI solutions to Open edX, including AI-powered tutors, student counselors, and teaching assistants. 

The AI Coach XBlock is in many ways Edly’s counter to Benjamin Bloom’s 2 Sigma Problem. To summarize the 2 Sigma Problem, it is the analysis that with the help of a one-on-one tutor, a student will perform two standard deviations better than students who were educated exclusively in a classroom.

This is where I introduced Edly’s Product Owner, who began to walk us through the configuration of our AI Coach as well as to introduce the next thing I learned about. 

Introducing Chatly

Okay, to be fair, I had already learned about this but now we’re excited to announce this to you: Edly has been hard at work putting together a personal learning assistant, Chatly. Chatly is a smart chatbot that makes learning fun and convenient for your learners while emulating one-on-one tutoring.

Chatly leverages OpenAI’s API key to access and use large language models and text embedding models. Once you’ve input your OpenAI API key, you can begin using Chatly to:

  • Contextualize a chatbot with your content
  • Customize prompts to get desired results from your Learners
  • Leverage a safe AI with guard rails to combat hallucination
  • Import courses from your LMS, including Open edX, Blackboard, and others
  • Ingest data from various file types 
  • Write content to provide additional context on the go

With Chatly, you can embed and share your AI chatbot, create knowledge bases on desired topics based on content that you create, and start unlocking insights from your learners’ questions. Chatly leverages safe AIs, allowing you to quickly build your AI tutor and easily ingest content to improve learning outcomes fast and at a low cost.

Chatly by Edly

On top of that, Chatly is the only tool that allows you to import courses from Open edX that can be ingested by a chatbot. This means that your chatbot will be trained on the courses that you created in Open edX Studio. The opportunities are endless.

Chatly allows you to configure your AI tutor to implement guard rails to prevent the bot from sharing “out of context,” unwarranted responses. You can also leverage technical settings, like configuring the temperature, which is used to control the “randomness” of the bots’ responses and predictions. 

Best of all? You can try Chatly for free today.

What’s Next for Generative AI and Open edX?

With all these exciting breakthroughs in the AI space and development efforts by key providers in the Open edX marketplace, the natural question to ask is: what’s next? 

Within the Open edX community, multiple providers are incorporating AI into existing Components (like the Open Response Assessment) but it needs to be added to more content, like the Staff Graded Assignments. Imagine if the Hints and Feedback on all Problem Components could be dynamically pulled from an AI tool. 

Within Chatly, we’re striving to improve the Open edX Course Import functionality and types of content that can be ingested; with all the different releases and XBlocks available, it’s imperative to support as many courses and content types as possible. We’re also interested in providing AI-powered tools for instructors, like a tool that can create a lesson plan or syllabus after reviewing your entire course or a bot that can fetch a student’s progress on a course and share it with you on demand. In the long term, we’d like to see Chatly and the other AI tools become native to future releases of Open edX.

This brings me to my final learning from the meetup: beyond Edly (and Open edX, to some extent) there are questions about generative AI in edTech. Costs, ethical considerations, and more technical use cases are all at the top of my mind. We had the chance to discuss these items in more detail with attendees of the meetup; there’s a lot to be excited about!

Get Started with Chatly Today

The meetup was worthwhile and it was an honor to participate. There’s a lot of interest in generative AI and momentum to get it rapidly incorporated into edTech. I’m glad to have had a chance to be a part of these presentations. Now it’s your turn to join the conversation! 

As I mentioned above, Chatly is live and you can sign up for free. You can be amongst the first to incorporate Chatly into your Open edX platform. Once you’ve created your account, you just need to add your OpenAI API key to get started. We’d be eager to hear your feedback. If you have any questions, you can get in touch with us or check out the Chatly knowledge base to get started.

If you’re not on Open edX or the Edly platform, you can also book a no-obligations demo with Edly’s sales team today. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about Edly, Chatly, or Open edX. 

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