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FIU Adds AI to Online Education

by Monica smith

Jun 11, 2019, 9:00 AM.

Pilot program uses new technology to help teach students.

As Florida International University continually seeks ways to close gaps for its students, the institution made the digital leap into the future with a pilot program that features artificial intelligence (AI) in one of its online business courses to close the gap between man and machine.

David-John Palmer, an instructor at FIU and associate director of educational technology at FIU Online, has a passion for the use of technology to enhance learning experiences. In his capacity at FIU Online, Palmer is charged with oversight of instructional systems used in online and blended courses. He spearheaded the recent AI initiative in his own Introduction to Information Systems course in partnership with Cognii Inc., a leading provider of AI-based educational technologies.

First at FIU

“It’s a good start as we explore the benefits of enhanced learning experiences with AI,” stated Palmer about the partnership and explained that he hopes to assess the tool's potential from this introductory course featuring AI to create a follow-up article about the experience.

His course, offered through FIU’s College of Business, which is ranked among the top 5 percent of elite business schools worldwide and accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, is the first online FIU course to feature AI in instructional design.

How it Works

In Palmer’s course, Cognii’s virtual learning assistant (VLA) technology functions like an AI tutor. Students are using Cognii to learn a number of topics in information systems management. The conversational AI technology measures their knowledge, comprehension and business application skills, and guides them toward conceptual mastery with personalized tutoring. Over the past semester, the Cognii team collaborated with FIU Online instructors and support team members to custom design and pilot a number of modules that support this innovative pedagogy. Once a faculty member programs the VLA with information, it can automatically grade students’ open-response (short essay) answers and extract rich pedagogical insights and analytics to improve faculty members’ productivity.

“With a growing focus on online education and innovation, FIU is an ideal partner in our pursuit to improve the quality and affordability of education,” stated Cognii founder and CEO Dee Kanejiya.

Forward-thinking Innovation

Palmer is a scheduled speaker at the upcoming 2019 Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Innovate Conference in April and will speak about his experience and how AI can help educators connect with students individually to improve outcomes.

“We need to explore what will become the new norm—humans and AI working together to educate the generations of tomorrow, and we are excited to partner with Cognii,” said Palmer. “As we pursue FIU’s strategic plan, we believe EdTech innovations such as Cognii virtual learning assistant will play a key role in improving our scale, efficiency and sustainability.”

For more information about FIU Online, please visit

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