Seminars & Colloquia

Lewis Johnson


"Personalized Learning using Virtual Role-Play"

Thursday May 14, 2015 01:30 PM
Location: 3211, EBII NCSU Centennial Campus
(Visitor parking instructions)



For training and assessment to be useful and meaningful, it must be authentic and relevant to performance on the job. For communication skills, role-play with trained role players can be very effective, but also costly and inconvenient to organize. Virtual role play is emerging as a powerful and cost-effective alternative. Learners demonstrate their skills in simulated interactions with artificially intelligent virtual role players. Virtual role-play has the advantage that it is consistent, repeatable, and can be performed in a variety of situations and at varying levels of difficulty. It is particularly useful for formative assessment, in which performance data from role-play simulations is used to assess component competencies and guide the provision of targeted, personalized instruction. This talk will include examples from a range of virtual role-play simulations, particularly in the area of world languages and global competence.

Short Bio:

Lewis Johnson, Ph.D. has extensive experience in adaptive training generally and language and culture training in particular. He graduated summa cum laude in Linguistics from Princeton and then completed a Ph.D. at Yale in Computer Science, specializing in artificial intelligence in education. He went on assume a leading role in the international research community in artificial intelligence in education, serving as Secretary and President of the International Artificial Intelligence and Education Society from 2000 to 2003. His 2000 article co-authored with Jeff Rickel and James Lester, "Animated pedagogical agents: Face-to-face interaction in interactive learning environments" was highly influential and helped lay the foundation for subsequent work with pedagogical agents in adaptive training and education.

Since the early 2000s Dr. Johnson's focus has been on adaptive training technologies for language, culture, and interpersonal skills. His work on the Tactical Language Project for DARPA won a DARPATech Technical Achievement Award in 2005. He co-founded Alelo in 2004, which has developed a number of significant language and culture training products. The Tactical and Operational Language and Culture Training Systems have been used by tens of thousands of military trainees, both in the United States and coalition partner countries. Alelo's VCATs (Virtual Cultural Awareness Trainers) are now available for over 80 countries and have been used by over 60,000 trainees. Alelo's VRP MIL product integrates virtual role-players into military virtual training, so that culture and language competence becomes an integral part of virtual training instead of a separate schoolhouse training activity.

The SLSustain project funded by the Office of Naval Research automatically assesses language competencies and generates personalized courses of instruction to overcome deficiencies. The principal goal is to detect and overcome the effects of language skill decay. The RALL-E project, under a National Science Foundation Cyberlearning grant, has integrated its virtual role-play technology into lifelike social robots for conversational practice. Both projects are being conducted in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Education. In 2014 he delivered a Distinguished Lecture on Disruptive Learning Technologies at the National Science Foundation, and a keynote lecture at the International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems. This year he co-edited a special issue on Culturally Aware Educational Technologies in the International Journal on Artificial Intelligence in Education.

Special Instructions: Please note that, this talk is not officially a part of any of the seminar categories, but selection is required.

Host: Dr. James Lester, CSC

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