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Coursera Unveils Generative AI Features for Online Platform

The online learning platform has developed a slew of new AI-powered functions for grading, student feedback and lesson planning, as well as activities that focus on teaching students about machine learning.

A person working on a laptop with symbols like an open book, a graduation cap and a magnifying glass hovering above the keyboard.
The online learning platform Coursera has launched several new AI-powered functions to help educators with lesson planning and providing personalized feedback for students, as well as plans to use machine learning for course language translations, among other new platform features.

According to a Thursday announcement at the annual Coursera Conference, the platform has developed and launched a slew of new content additions and features, such as AI-powered tools that can auto-generate course content and inform how teachers structure lessons by recommending readings, assignments, glossaries and other materials, potentially helping teachers to save time on lesson planning. Coursera Chief Content Officer Marni Baker Stein said Coursera's new AI Assisted Course Building feature, set to launch later this year, will allow course developers easier access to the platform’s open content collection to guide instructional design with relevant assignments and class activities.

“Anybody who's been an instructional designer knows all of that work takes so much time, and this essentially creates a working draft for the faculty member to start with,” she said.

Baker Stein said another new feature, Quick Grader, lets users review uploaded student assignments alongside rubrics and gives feedback on individual assignments through reusable comments and relevant hyperlinks. She noted that these new AI features aim to fulfill a growing demand among educators for tech tools that can help provide personalized feedback and speed up grading, which has been a key focus of AI ed-tech tools like the K-12 homework feedback program ASSISTments as well as some “AI tutor” programs similar to Google’s that was released in 2021.

“There's a lot of complexity with generative AI tools and applications for education, but there's also the promise to be able to serve learners one by one at scale affordably, and we've never even been able to contemplate it at this level before,” she added. “[AI can be] a productivity tool as well. I think we're all using it now as a productivity tool and experimenting with what it can do for us as our own personal assistant.”

Baker Stein said Coursera will soon also have its own new AI “Coursera Coach” that can answer students’ questions and provide personalized feedback. She said the “coach,” set to begin its pilot in the coming months, will provide students with video lecture summaries and other resources to condense topics for students to have a better grasp of specific course concepts. With student accessibility in mind, she said the platform is also taking advantage of advances in machine learning to translate course content so students across the world can access materials in their native languages.

Baker Stein noted the platform is currently working to translate course reading materials, lecture video subtitles, assessments and discussion prompts across 2,000 courses from English into Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Portuguese, Thai and Indonesian.

“We have 35 million registered learners on Coursera who speak Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Portuguese, Thai and Indonesian, so we're going to start with those seven languages and make sure that we're making translation available across the [course] catalog … The machine learning assistance aspect of this is important because it really reduces the cost of doing this per course,” she said, adding that the platform is also making forays into adding AR/VR tech features.

According to the news release, the platform has developed new course content and activities across different academic disciplines to teach students about how AI and machine learning work. The platform will soon feature “AI for Good Specialization,” a program from DeepLearning.AI created in partnership with the Microsoft AI for Good Lab, which showcases how AI is being used across industries to solve challenges in spheres such as climate science and disaster response. The news release said the platform also plans to host workshop-like activities on ChatGPT-related topics, such as a ChatGPT “Teach Out” from the University of Michigan that introduces learners to AI technologies and explains how large language models like ChatGPT and chatbots work, as well as how these tools should be utilized and regulated to stave off plagiarism and other misuses moving forward. What's more, the platform will include guided projects for beginners to use tools like ChatGPT for creating illustrated stories and conducting market research, among other activities.

“I would say that for the last six months or so, we've gotten to a tipping point in our ability to harness these technologies in powerful ways,” Stein Baker said, noting the need to familiarize students with the technology moving forward.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.