Using Artificial Intelligence To Students’ Improve Critical Thinking And Written Communication Skills

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session will share how technology and AI can be used to remove the administrative burden of online discussion, provide real-time student coaching and support learning outcomes in blended and online learning programs.


Roberto is a seasoned sales leader with a track record for driving YOY growth. Even in a senior management role, he was dedicated to enterprise sales personally closing numerous large deals across North America. He has strong experience building powerful sales teams, developing client relationships and bringing out the best in team members. Advocate for both client and company, Roberto has built a career of enduring relationships and trusted partnerships. His teams respond to his ability to provide leadership and vision, with a plan to achieve it.

Extended Abstract

Online and blended learning programs often rely on discussions as a way to track student participation and engage the class. However, managing traditional discussion boards can be time-consuming and often result in low-level, non-academic student conversations. Instructors are challenged with providing feedback to these students that will elevate the quality of discussion, help the students feel more engaged and support learning outcomes such as critical thinking and written communication skills. Through this presentation, we’ll share how technology and AI can be integrated to remove the administrative burden of online discussion and support learning outcomes with examples provided by Dr. Kathleen West.

* At this point of the presentation, presenters will show the audience anonymous student questions and questions asked by prominent figures in related fields. By raise of hands, they will have the audience guess which are student questions and which are not.*

Dr. Kathleen West from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte recently performed a research study to understand the impact of providing feedback to students and using automated moderation to establish a standard of quality that students needed to achieve in her online course. The study compared three different discussion methods in three sections of an online junior-level psychology course. Dr. West found that students using Packback’s discussion method had higher participation and better scores on written exams than students who were using LMS discussion or answering a weekly writing prompt. We will discuss her method of using packback to facilitate discussion and the strategies she employed to increase student participation, quality of discussion and improve student writing skills.

When Dr. West’s students logged onto their online discussion forum, they were greeted with a sample post from their instructor. The students using the Packback Questions platform were also presented with a seven-step tutorial of guidelines for how to write a quality post. Both the sample prompt and the tutorial helped students understand how to ask great questions.

In order to improve student writing in online learning courses, Dr. West provided constructive feedback to students. Not only did she provide feedback on how students could improve their posts, but she also provided encouraging comments as to what made the questions great. In Dr. West’s Packback course, she provided feedback with the Give Feedback feature. This feature allows instructors to give feedback through public praising and private coaching. When instructors offer Praise feedback on a post, it appears publicly for all students to see. This helps the whole class understand what professors are looking for in questions and responses. The Give Feedback feature also creates a more personalized experience by showing the class how their instructors are involved, even if they do not personally receive the feedback.

Giving personalized feedback in classes requires a lot of time and is a large administrative burden. One of the reasons Dr. West enjoyed using Packback was because Packback provides live in-line feedback to help students improve their writing skills and automatically moderates low-quality posts (such as questions about class logistics, questions containing profanity, or close-ended questions) to establish a quality standard in the class. If a post is moderated, the student receives a coaching email with specific feedback and the student has a chance to edit and republish their post. This helps the student understand why their post was moderated and how it can be improved. Additionally, the automated coaching and moderation allowed Dr. West to spend more time on teaching and giving feedback instead of making sure all student posts met basic guidelines.

Dr. West also used Packback’s “Curious Reader Digest” to share the best student questions with the whole class via a weekly email. Seeing the best questions written by peers on a weekly basis gives students an example to aspire to, sparks curiosity around the subject matter and helps them relate class concepts to real-world scenarios.

Students in Dr. West’s class who practiced writing weekly via an online discussion platform performed better on written exams, with the highest scores coming from students who used Packback.

Through this session, professors will:

  1. Understand how artificial intelligence can improve students’ critical thinking and communication skills.
  2. Learn how to provide an inspiring and constructive feedback loop in online courses
  3. Learn how Packback can be integrated into a course to save time in administering and grading writing assignments