Using intelligent agents in virtual learning environments

Nudging 360 addresses the digital transformation in Higher Education by using nudging and self-nudging to enhance HE educators’ digital competencies. As a part of the project, each partner agreed to present 3 successful digital nudging cases in higher education. For the second inspiring case of nudging, ACEEU interviewed Adam Tate, who is a Senior Lecturer in Academic Practice in the Centre for Academic Development and Quality at Nottingham Trent University.

Adam Tate shared his valuable observations of using intelligent agents in virtual learning environments. The digital nudge has been developed and implemented in one of the universities in the United Kingdom, which is a new university founded at the end of a post-92 century and focusing on supporting students from more vocational backgrounds. Adam states that the key stakeholders of the nudge were students, lecturers, heads of departments, IT staff and senior staff of the university.

This digital nudge was about sending students some specific prompts in a way of automated emails to remind them to log in to the virtual learning environments. Depending on the time of inactivity of students, these emails were sent after 1 week, 2 weeks, and 4 weeks. The language of these emails was also different. The researcher explains that while the first emails were more compassionate, the following emails were more procedural and reminded of important regulations.
Due to the digital nudge, there was increased engagement with virtual learning environment. According to the researcher, in some courses, there was an additional 40% engagement by students in the virtual learning environment.

Adam also believes that the digital nudge is successful only if it is complemented with human intervention at some point as we saw from the example of sending utilized emails.
In conclusion, using intelligent agents in virtual learning environments is a great example of successful implications of digital nudging in higher education. In this case, the digital nudging was aiming to prompt students via sending them automated regular emails to log them back to virtual learning environments. However, it is not only about logging back to the system, but meaningful virtual engagement with the content. This example also shows us some key elements of digital nudging such as the importance of human intervention, and the significance of the careful balance between a positive incentivization and some gentle pushing.

Contributed by ACEEU