During my first information technology masters degree at Macquarie University, I was given the opportunity by dear Prof. Deborah Richards to author two chapters of an academic book titled “Multi-Agent Systems for Education and Interactive Entertainment: Design, Use and Experience”, which can be found here. The book presents readers with a rich collection of ideas from researchers all around the world who are exploring the complex tradeoffs that must be made in designing agent systems for education and interactive entertainment. It provides a mixture of relevant theoretical and practical understanding of the use of multi-agent systems in educational and entertainment research, together with practical examples of the use of such systems in real application scenarios.
When I was choosing my topic area for my final project at that time, I had never heard of the use of Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs), nor any other technologies inhabited such as the virtual agents, particularly in an educational context. Soon after I realised the value of MUVEs and these virtual pedagogical agents to the extent how they can accommodate lifelike experiences with the benefit of the situated and distributed nature of cognition, as well as their ability to create a platform to simulate the conditions that are not doable or practicable under real world circumstances. In that period, the project helped me understand how such educational technologies can be utilised to foster teaching and learning in classroom and distant education settings spanning a wide range of fields of study such as history, geography, foreign language learning, science, etc. I was simply amazed by their potential for students and educators to try out theories and conduct experiments which may not be otherwise possible due to physical challenges, safety and cost issues.
Albeit years have passed and I had gotten involved with numerous educational and IT projects since the delivery of this wonderful experience, its impact on me has not swayed away at all, instead, it has remarkably stimulated my inner-thought-bubbles even further to build on it. Now, here I am, initiating a postgraduate research project to discover the potential benefits of embedding Intelligent Virtual Environments (IVEs) and artificial intelligence powered pedagogical agents as learner companions (AI-PALs) in education to help learners attain cognitive gains.
This project will be a multidisciplinary work, primarily blending the following areas:
- deep learning
- artificial intelligence
- cognitive science
- virtual pedagogical agents
- computer-based learning
- student engagement
- educational pedagogy.