Researchers from the CITIC of the UDC Conduct a Pilot Project on Using AI as a Teaching Support Tool

04/06/2024 - CITIC
  • The Ministry of Education project, called ProgTutor, has been carried out at IES Sofía Casanova in Ferrol. 
  • Around 40 first-year Baccalaureate students have tested the Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) this academic year

A Coruña, June 4, 2024 – CITIC researchers, Francisco Bellas and Óscar Fontenla, along with a team of 8 other researchers, have been teaching weekly classes at the Sofía Casanova High School in Ferrol as part of a Ministry of Education project that explores the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a teaching support tool. This project, named ProgTutor, aims to develop an Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) that provides students with personalized instruction in Python programming through robotic simulations. 

The ITS has been tested with more than 40 fifth-year high school students during the 2023/24 academic year, achieving significant advances and improvements in its functionality. ProgTutor stands out for its contributions in two main areas: 

  • Machine Learning: Includes new metrics for student interaction with the programming environment and the robotic simulator, innovative methods for evaluating code against correct solutions, and a comprehensive procedure for customizing programming tasks. 
  • User Interface: Introduces feedback methods based on visualizations and personalized experiences, inspired by video games and virtual reality. 

The project aligns with the objectives of the European Union’s Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027, with significant contributions in several aspects. As a teaching tool, it will facilitate programming and computational thinking training and offer substantial support to teachers through personalized student tracking and guidance. Its design for blended learning will enable both synchronous and asynchronous classes, adapting to various teaching modalities. Additionally, it will enhance digital competencies by providing personalized learning adjustable to different educational levels. Finally, it will promote practical programming training through solving robotics challenges in a simulation environment. 

Development of the ITS Prototype 

The final outcome of this project will be a fully functional software prototype, applicable to any basic Python programming training. To achieve this goal, ProgTutor has been developed using the open simulator of the Robobo robot, called RoboboSim, developed by MINT SL, a UDC spin-off, which is the platform on which students create their programs. The chosen programming environment for the training was Python, given its widespread use and relevance in the job market, in addition to its compatibility with the Robobo robot. The project aims to advance towards an ethical, responsible, and positive use of AI in education, always respecting the teacher as the core of the educational process and supporting their work.