The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced on July 29, 2021 that it is investing $20 million in a collaborative effort to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to transform adult learning in STEM fields. Led by the Georgia Research Alliance, the effort unites experts in computer science, AI, cognitive science, learning science, and education from Arizona State University, Boeing, Drexel University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Harvard University, IBM, IMS Global, Technical College System of Georgia, UNC Greensboro, and Wiley. The NSF grant will establish the NSF AI Institute for Adult Learning and Online Education (ALOE) to be headquartered at Georgia Tech.
Dr. Aileen Reid, Assistant Professor in UNC Greensboro School of Education’s Educational Research Methodology (ERM) Department, will be the external evaluator for the ALOE Institute. The program evaluation will employ multiple methods to answer evaluation questions focused on project theory, implementation, effectiveness, outcomes, impact, and sustainability of the Institute. Dr. Reid will use a Values-Engaged, Educative Evaluation approach (VEE), which defines high-quality STEM educational programming as that which effectively incorporates cutting-edge scientific content, strong instructional pedagogy, and sensitivity to diversity and equity issues. The VEE evaluation approach seeks to educate stakeholders about their program while also capturing the viewpoints, interests, and values of all stakeholders. This approach also encourages explicit attention to issues of diversity and equity, and responsiveness to the culture and context of the program.
Dr. Reid has expertise in culturally responsive, STEM and mixed methods research and evaluation, educational measurement and assessment, and organizational change. Dr. Reid’s research applies culturally responsive frameworks to evaluation and measurement to shape educational research and policy and respond to societal challenges. Specifically, she investigates inequities in outcomes among underrepresented and minoritized groups in STEM education contexts and in the field of evaluation. Dr. Reid leads evaluations of similar NSF cooperative efforts, including National Network of Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs: Midwest Big Data Hub; INCLUDES Alliance: STEM PUSH (Pathways for Underrepresented Students to Higher Education) Network; and Biology Integration Institute (BII) Implementation: GEMS: Genomics and eco-evolution of multi-scale symbioses.
The ALOE Institute will develop new AI theories and techniques as well as new models of lifelong learning, and evaluate their effectiveness at Georgia Tech, Georgia State, multiple colleges within the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), as well as with corporate partners IBM, Boeing and Wiley. The multinational company Accenture joins NSF as a funding partner of ALOE.
“Online education for adults has enormous implications for tomorrow’s workforce,” says the project’s Principal Investigator Myk Garn, a GRA Senior Advisor and Assistant Vice Chancellor for New Models of Learning at the University System of Georgia. “Yet, serious questions remain about the quality of online learning and how best to teach adults online. Artificial intelligence offers a powerful technology for dramatically improving the quality of online learning and adult education.”
Online education massively expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is likely to stay as a major medium for lifelong learning for many adults. Research and development at ALOE aims to blend online educational resources and courses to make education more widely available, as well as use virtual assistants to make it more affordable and achievable.
“We are honored to be a partner on this critically important and timely project,” says Dr. Randy Penfield, Dean of the UNC Greensboro School of Education. “It is inspiring to see the expertise of our faculty support these types of large-scale efforts to expand educational access and excellence, two themes that are foundational to the mission of UNC Greensboro.”