Simulated Learners in Educational Technology: A Systematic Literature Review and a Turing-like Test

Tanja Kaser, Giora Alexandron

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Simulation is a powerful approach that plays a significant role in science and technology. Computational models that simulate learner interactions and data hold great promise for educational technology as well. Amongst others, simulated learners can be used for teacher training, for generating and evaluating hypotheses on human learning, for developing adaptive learning algorithms, for building virtual worlds in which students can practice collaboration skills with simulated pals, and for testing learning environments. This paper provides the first systematic literature review on simulated learners in the broad area of artificial intelligence in education and related fields, focusing on the decade 2010-19. We analyze the trends regarding the use of simulated learners in educational technology within this decade, the purposes for which simulated learners are being used, and how the validity of the simulated learners is assessed. We find that simulated learner models tend to represent only narrow aspects of student learning. And, surprisingly, we also find that almost half of the studies using simulated learners do not provide any evidence that their modeling addresses the most fundamental question in simulation design - is the model valid? This poses a threat to the reliability of results that are based on these models. Based on our findings, we propose that future research should focus on developing more complete simulated learner models. To validate these models, we suggest a standard and universal criterion, which is based on the lasting idea of Turing's Test. We discuss the properties of this test and its potential to move the field of simulated learners forward.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages41
JournalInternational Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education
DOIs
StatePublished Online - Jul 2023

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