Digital humans for education

Artificial intelligence is entering the education sector to improve remote learning experiences, support students, unlock virtual tutoring and much more. But education needs to become more than just autonomous and digital.

Powered by conversational AI, digital humans are creating personalized, scalable and emotionally resonant educational experiences that can make a huge difference in modern digital learning environments.

Learn how these leading education providers are using UneeQ to improve their CX

Making digital human learning experiences memorable

The great Maya Angelou famously said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

Is that any more true than in the education sector? Think back to your earliest childhood classrooms. You may not remember exactly what you learned, but we bet you recall your teachers with vivid recollection – including how they made you feel.

It’s personality that students connect with, and UneeQ digital humans offer the “human touch” in any digital learning environment – from early school to university, extracurricular and even workplace education settings. Our conversational AIs use a broad range of learning styles, and can hold conversations in real time, offering 24/7 personalized support.

Digital humans unlock the benefits of digital teaching tools, but make virtual learning environments more human, experiential and unforgettable.

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Present information the way your students learn best. Digital humans use voice, text, imagery, video and interaction to make subjects more memorable.

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Whether it’s helping students understand their schedules or giving them one-on-one virtual tutoring, digital humans are available whenever they’re needed online.

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Level up your educational chatbot. If you employ a chatbot in an educational setting, it’s simple to upgrade it to a scalable “face to face” digital human channel.

Meet some of the digital humans tutoring and educating people today

Digital Einstein | An education companion

We brought Albert Einstein back to life to help new generations engage with the great scientist, learn about his life and work, and ask him science questions face to face.

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Sophie | A different kind of educator

A friendly conversation in difficult times, Sophie was launched to teach people about the coronavirus pandemic, using accurate, live data from the CDC and WHO.

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Miku | BCG’s workplace education facilitator

Engaging with all ages, Boston Consulting Group built Miku in a matter of weeks to help educate employees on work-life balance, as well as deploying her as a personal assistant.

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Make digital education personal

Digital humans are the only solution that combines the personality of a human with the scalability and lower cost to serve that comes with digital.

Multimodal conversational content

Our platform allows you to use a range of UX features to help people learn on their terms – including audio, visual and interactive material.

Going beyond a faceless chatbot

Give your education industry chatbot a major upgrade. Integrate your backend systems and databases to make your digital human a great source of knowledge.

Scale learning experience when needed

Your digital human is available 24/7, and can scale infinitely to speak with and help as many students as necessary.

  • “From persona design through to integration with the chatbot, Miku took only a matter of weeks to stand up – an impressively fast implementation.”
    BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP
    SENIOR PARTNER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR
  • “The coupling of UneeQ’s digital human platform with IBM Watson’s NLP service and Bolton College’s campus systems has produced something wonderful here. We envisage numerous use cases, especially with regards to teaching, learning and assessment.”
    BOLTON COLLEGE
    ILT AND LRC MANAGER

A HISTORY OF ONLINE EDUCATION: BRINGING PERSONALITY BACK TO DIGITAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

For more than a century, the world has witnessed the advent and growth of distance learning. It remains an effective, convenient and accessible means to educate, but far removed from the personality and emotional connection that comes with the very best tutoring, teaching and support.

Here’s a brief timeline of events that underscore how that has happened, and why educators are now trying to put some of that personality back using conversational AI.

1840s

Distance learning defined: Long before online learning entered the lexicon, distance learning was introduced as the Postal Service began nationwide commercial correspondence colleges.

1858

The first distant learning degrees: Soon after, The University of London led the way with its External Programme, introducing the world’s first degree for distant learners.

1950s

Proliferation of global distant learning: Much of the world followed suit. By the mid-nineties, universities from Africa to Australia and Arizona had convenient correspondence courses – including the world’s first televised college credit classes provided by The University of Houston.

1989

The birth of online accreditation: The University of Phoenix becomes the first institution to launch an online program for bachelors and masters degrees.

1990s and 2000s

Online learning really takes off: Powered by the proliferation of the internet and video content, we witness a wave of web-based online accreditations. By 2003, six million WebCT students had enrolled in 150,000 courses across 55 countries.

2010s

AI enters education: The late 2010s saw more investment in the use of AI as the technology begins to help with everything from admin automation to avatar technology and assessments. The ground is set for…

2020s

The age of conversational AI learning: The decade started with the pandemic, showing us what’s possible and what isn’t through digital education. An acceleration of AI-powered digital human solutions begin to augment these virtual resources with more human-like capabilities.

BRINGING A HUMAN EXPERIENCE BACK TO EDUCATION | DIGITAL HUMANS, CHATBOTS AND CONVERSATIONAL AI​

Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are bringing exciting changes to education. In particular, conversational AI is proving to be an effective interface for delivering dynamic online learning to students, and helping to make e-learning far more engaging and human.

Educators know as well as anyone else that COVID-19 brought about a dramatic, once-in-a-generation acceleration towards online learning.

According to the US Census Bureau, 93% of households with school-age children engaged in some form of “distance learning” from home since COVID-19 restrictions began.

However, during the pandemic, 42% of students said staying motivated is a major problem for them when learning digitally. Online learning unfortunately failed at delivering an engaging online experience. That’s particularly true among children in lower socio-economic households, Census data reveals.

Educators around the world should be praised for transitioning to a new way of teaching – one that strips out the face-to-face time that students and teachers need together. It’s certainly not been easy, and we’d like to first applaud the efforts of the education sector.

And we’d secondly like to look at a way forward. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic in our rear-view mirror, the way students learn has forever changed. Online learning is now a staple in the education sector (from early childhood education to college, university and even in the workplace).

The emergence and adoption of new teaching solutions, including artificial intelligence tools, has happened faster than perhaps anyone thought possible before the turn of the century. The focus now is on learning from the past, and making online education better for the future.

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    How is AI used in education?

    Artificial intelligence in education is being widely adopted, growing at an annual rate of around 48% (CAGR). Broadly speaking, AI is being used by educators as a means to automate previously manual tasks – scheduling, administration, document management, educational content creation, personalized study plans, intelligent instruction design, and so much more.

    One of the more emerging use cases of AI in education is for personalized online learning – a non-prescriptive approach where courses are tailored to an individual learner. With the ability to set the learning experience to suit each student’s learning style and pace, the opportunity for personalized online learning is expected to grow by over $250 million by 2025.

    Personalization for each student is the Holy Grail for educators, but it has constantly been limited by how much time those working in the sector have available. The scalability of AI is making it possible to tailor learning schedules, content and media to the individual, without requiring greater human involvement. 

    Conversational AI is a good example. Students can speak with a conversational AI any time, day or night. That conversational AI could be a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa, a text-based AI chatbot, or a digital human who can meet “face to face” and show emotions like empathy and warmth.

    What are the key benefits of using conversational AI in the education sector?

    Conversational AI forms a natural-feeling interface between computers and the people using them. It allows people to use voice, text and speech to interface with machines, making it easier to find and often retain certain information. In return, the best conversational AI tools give responses that are more natural – for example, a human-like spoken response from Siri – meaning the interaction becomes more similar to real-life human interactions.

    And they’re available 24/7, they offer consistent information without human error, bias or frustration, and they benefit from being not-human in some scenarios – for instance, when people feel embarrassed to share certain personal information for fear of judgement.

    There are a number of use cases for conversational AI solutions (in particular, digital humans) in the education sector:

    • Digital teaching assistant/virtual tutor: Nothing will replace a real teacher; but when students have questions as they’re doing their homework in the evenings, a conversational AI can act as an informative virtual tutor. 
    • Intelligent personal assistant: For more administrative tasks, a conversational AI can be a student’s personal assistant, providing information about classes or lecturers, helping students stick to their schedule, and reminding them of upcoming deadlines.
    • Multilingual tutor: Around 60% of the world can speak more than one language. Conversational AI assistants can speak hundreds of languages and dialects, helping international students translate and understand certain terms that may allude them, and building better language proficiency without the fear of judgement.
    • Admissions assistant: Applying to college and university can be a long, complicated process. Conversational AI solutions, like digital humans, can live in an online form application, walking applicants through the process as they go, answering any number of questions, and making the individual feel supported and valued.
    • Feedback facilitator: Receiving student feedback can be a difficult process for educators – and vice versa. Conversational AI can be used to create a safe, trusting environment to give critical feedback; and also conveying feedback to students or educators in a timely, friendly and empathetic manner.

    Conversational AI | Putting multimodal learning at the forefront of education?

    Educators will be familiar with the many different learning styles, and which work best for their individual students. VARK methodology, for example, suggests that some people learn better through visual media, while others “learn by doing”.

    From young children to mature students, the most likely scenario is that learners take in information best when presented with a combination of styles. And it’s this combination that ensures some people aren’t left behind.

    Conversational AI interfaces can incorporate the various ways people learn best – visually through on-screen imagery; through text and typing interfaces; through two-way speech; and by interacting with the subject material.

    However, the choice of conversational AI might present only a few of these learning styles, rather than the whole gamut. Chatbots, for instance, are great for people who learn information best when it’s in text form. Voice assistants are great for auditory learners, but visual learners may struggle to take in that information.

    This is one of the benefits of digital humans and AI avatars in education scenarios. People can hear what the digital human says; they can see on-screen visuals and text presented by the UI; and they can directly interact with the AI and the learning material.

    What about using chatbots in education? A strong starting point.

    As we talk about the pros and cons of using conversational AI in the education sector, we naturally begin to discuss chatbots and what they offer. As one of the simplest forms of conversational AI, chatbots have been some of the first solutions out of the gate, and some of the most widely used by educators.

    But there are natural limitations to using chatbots as education tools:

    • They primarily use text as an interface (and sometimes visuals) making them ineffective for people who learn better through other means.
    • They lack an emotive experience. Only 33% of millennials consider chatbots to be friendly and approachable, with lower results among older generations.
    • They cannot show emotion, providing a rather flat user experience, which can be detrimental when dealing with sensitive or emotionally charged matters, like admission applications.
    • They can’t show personality. It’s personality that makes for the most memorable and effective educators. Our research shows 42% of organizations are now adding a “more human experience” to their chatbots as their biggest priority. But is it possible in a simple text box?

     

    That’s not to say chatbots are inherently bad. The benefits of chatbots in education settings are well established, including convenience, ease of access and their ability to answer simple questions quickly.

    For those reasons, conversational AI projects are increasingly being deployed to create a hybrid digital workforce. A digital workforce combines human, digital human and chatbot channels. These workforces exist today in industries like retail, financial services, healthcare and telecommunications, as well as in education settings.

    You can learn more about hybrid digital workforces in our free eBook – building a digital workforce.

    Using digital humans to build emotional connections in education.

    Hopefully it’s getting clearer how conversational AI can lead to better educational outcomes. 

    We’ve touched upon the convenience, scalability and versatility of AI solutions for schools, colleges, universities and other education organizations.

    But the potential of conversational AI goes far beyond utilitarian use cases. Digital humans are the means to add EQ to the IQ of an educational institution’s AI and backend systems.

    Digital humans, unlike any other technology, show personality in how they speak, the words they say, their tone of voice, and the body language and facial expressions they use. Just like real people – like real teachers, assistants and staff – they interact with friendliness, humor, empathy and warmth.

    The impacts are similar to digital human implementations in other sectors – and the effects can be rather profound.

    For instance, some conversations students may need to have can be sensitive in nature. At other times, questions may seem too trivial, silly or embarrassing for students to ask a real person. Avatar-based AI technology removes some of the stigma or sensitivity of starting such conversations, while keeping a human approach at the centre of the interaction.

    In healthcare, avatars and digital humans have been shown to encourage more disclosures of sensitive information among patients, providing people with the support they need without direct human involvement. Patients with symptoms of depression, for instance, have shown to form cooperative, supportive therapeutic alliances with digital humans. The education sector – where supportive environments are so important for positive outcomes – can also benefit from “non human” support channels.

Other industries we work with

Right now, UneeQ digital humans are working in healthcare, banking, insurance and telco to name just a few. Everything from their unique appearance to their personalities are being co-designed to create the most positive, lasting impact on users.

Banking & finance

Digital humans are helping banking and financial services organizations scale, all while putting amazing customer experiences front and center.

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Healthcare

From improving literacy and accessibility to easing the burden on front-line staff, digital humans educate and inform, while combining the best of in-person and digital care.

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Telco

Conversational AI-powered digital humans are making waves in the telco industry, putting memorable interactions (not just transactions) at the center of the customer experience.

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Digital humans, AI and education | Today’s technology, not just tomorrow’s.

Some of the most impactful use cases for digital humans today are built for education purposes, even in the commercial world. For instance, UneeQ digital humans work in banking and insurance sectors, where they help customers with their financial literacy and wellbeing. Other digital humans support users by teaching them about the importance of sleep, or coaching them to a better, healthier lives.

Human interaction is a powerful tool. It’s the most time-tested, age-old interface in existence. Long before AI was even a dream – before any technology existed – we’ve been interacting face to face as human beings. The vast majority of people know how to interact face to face, using speech and non-verbal cues. Digital humans are no different, using their voice, tone and a range of expressions that remain essential to real, emotionally resonant interactions.

To delve a bit deeper, face-to-face conversation empowers interpersonal trust, longer-lasting connection, and the sensation of being supported and valued. Digital humans don’t pretend to be human; yet studies show people are seeking more humanity in their interactions, and are increasingly willing to have in-depth interactions with machines.

That being said, no AI will replace the human touch – especially in education. The most memorable and impactful people who have impacted our education (and our lives) cannot, should not and will not be replaced by any technology. However, education sector workers do need support, and the more repetitive tasks we can take away from them – while maintaining strong support for students – the better. From teachers to assistants, researchers and administrators, the more time we can give back to workers in the education sector, the better placed we’ll be to build a brighter future for students around the world. And we can start doing so today.