The University of North Carolina, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, is a partner in the National Science Foundation’s new Artificial Intelligence Institute for Engaged Learning, which aims to make AI tools more accessible and to foster a more equitable and inclusive classroom experience.

The institute, launched this summer with a five-year, $20 million grant from the NSF, will bring together leading researchers and education experts from Carolina, lead partner North Carolina State University, Indiana University, Vanderbilt University and educational nonprofit Digital Promise.

With a $4.5 million portion of the NSF grant, Carolina researchers will work to develop AI tools such as natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning for use in the classroom. The collaborative teams will also improve those tools through thoughtful design and a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

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The new institute will create a virtual environment with AI characters and analytical tools for educators to help foster a creative and communicative learning environment for students. Researchers will design a story-based environment where students can interact with engaging AI characters that communicate with speech, facial expression, posture and more.

The analytical tools will allow educators to customize scenarios as needed, making a more tailored approach to individual students and their learning style and capability. All these educational AI tools will be informed by ethical considerations of fairness, accountability, transparency, trust and privacy.

Mohit Bansal, the John R. and Louise S. Parker Associate Professor in Computer Science, is the lead co-principal investigator at Carolina. Three additional faculty members from the UNC College of Arts & Sciences computer science department will work in the new institute as senior personnel: Snigda Chaturvedi, Colin Raffel and Shashank Srivastava.

Carolina’s role in the institute is critical, said UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor of Research Terry Magnuson. They will develop advanced educational and analytical AI tools to move the work from iteration to real-world application. “Mohit Bansal and his team are leading the foundational artificial intelligence work for this NSF-AI institute, which will define and drive the strong impact and usefulness of the diverse educational AI tools,” Magnuson said.

“This partnership is a unique opportunity to develop groundbreaking, foundational AI innovations for improved, inclusive education and human learning,” Bansal said.

This article has been edited and condensed from the original version appearing on the University of North Carolina website.


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