Virtual Teaching Assistant: Jill Watson

Ashok Goel, David Joyner, Spencer Rugaber
Ida Camacho, Aditi Dutta, Marissa Gonzales, Saloni Shah

It has been said that Jill Watson is the most famous teaching assistant in the world. Her origin actually is quite humble. She was conceived in summer 2015 with the purpose of helping Georgia Tech's Online MS in CS Program (OMSCS) and specifically with my online course on knowledge-based artificial intelligence (KBAI) as a part of OMSCS program ( Jill had a very difficult birth in fall 2015.

Jill was quite precocious almost from the beginning. While still a baby, she joined the teaching staff of the Spring 2016 KBAI class. As a virtual teaching assistant, she answered questions in the online discussion forum for online KBAI class. Jill answered only routine, frequently answered questions on the forum, but she did so with higher than ninety percent accuracy and with an authenticity that the students in the class did not figure out that Jill was actually an AI agent. When we shared the identity of Jill with the students, the students were thrilled by the experiment!

By now we know that Jill is a veritable prodigy. Since Fall 2016, we have introduced multiple avatars of Jill Watson operating a under various pseudonyms into both the online and residential sections of the KBAI class. By now ~50 human TAs have worked in league with Jill and ~1500 students have interacted with her. The current version of Jill automatically answers about three fifths of student introductions in the first week of the class as well as about one third of all administrative questions about assessments in the class (assignments, projects, examinations).


Ashok Goel
Ashok Goel, Keith McGreggor, Spencer Rugaber
Tesca Fitzgerald, David Joyner, Rochelle Lobo, Bryan Wiltgen, Gongbo Zhang

The Design & Intelligence Laboratory conducts research into human-centered artificial intelligence and computational cognitive science, with a focus on computational creativity. Current projects explore analogical reasoning in biologically inspired design, visual reasoning on intelligence tests, meta-reasoning in game-playing software agents, and learning about ecological and biological systems in science education.