Emerging Application or Methodologies Papers
The goal of the Pedagogical Discourse project is to develop instructional tools that will help students and instructors use discussion boards more effectively, with an emphasis on automatically assessing discussion activities and building tools for promoting student discussion participation and learning. In this paper, we present a two related participation and learning scaffolding tools that exploit natural language processing and information retrieval techniques. The PedaBot tool is designed to aid student knowledge acquisition and promote reflection about course topics by connecting related discussions from a knowledge base of past discussions to the current discussion thread. The MentorMatch tool aims at promoting student participation using student mentors, i.e., course peers with a relatively good understanding of a particular topic. The system identifies students who often provide answers on a given topic and encourages classmates to invite mentors to participate in related discussions. Both tools have been integrated into a live discussion board that is used by an undergraduate computer science course. This paper describes our approaches to applying information retrieval and natural language processing techniques in the development of the tools and presents initial results from instrumentation and survey.