Bob Heller, Athabasca University

Profile photo of Bob Heller, expert at Athabasca University

Associate Professor Athabasca, Alberta bobh@athabascau.ca Office: (800) 269-6948

Bio/Research

I became interested in conversational agents, computer programs that use natural language and artificial intelligence in web-based exchanges with human users. Conversational agents, AKA as chat agents or chatbots, can be designed to serve a number of different purposes and many major businesses a...

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Bio/Research

I became interested in conversational agents, computer programs that use natural language and artificial intelligence in web-based exchanges with human users. Conversational agents, AKA as chat agents or chatbots, can be designed to serve a number of different purposes and many major businesses are deploying animated conversational agents on their web pages as virtual assistants or web guides. For example, Lingubot, a commercially available chatbot technology, lists the BBC, Lloyds TSB, Sharp, and IKEA, as their customers (See http://www.creativevirtual.com/)

The use of conversational agents in distance education is surprisingly sparse in spite of their potential to engage and motivate students, two features that are traditionally problematic in distance education. Kerly, Hall and Bull (2006) argue that the integration of conversational agents with intelligent tutor systems may provide a means to open learner modeling in which the system's model of the user's knowledge is revealed and shared with the user in order to bring about deeper learner reflection. Similarly, Johnson et al. (2000) argue that the combination of intelligent tutor systems with animated natural language interface agents give rise to new type of interface called Animated Pedagogical Agents or APAs. Hadwin, Winne, & Nesbit (2005) identified APAs as an important new research field at the "juncture of Human Computer Interaction and educational psychology".


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