An AI platform aims to promote critical thinking, build a sense of community in class, and help improve student success

A community college taps AI to inspire curiosity in online discussions


An AI platform aims to promote critical thinking, build a sense of community in class, and help improve student success

A Texas community college has launched a new initiative that will enable faculty to cultivate more enriching, engaging class discussions utilizing artificial intelligence (AI).

In partnership with the inquiry-based discussion platform Packback, Lone Star College-University Park will expand faculty and student access to a platform intended to promote critical thinking, build a sense of community in class, and help improve student success.

“The power of a good class discussion is that it empowers students to engage with the curriculum beyond what’s in their textbooks—and help them to see that they’re not alone in the questions they have or the observations they make,” said Dr. Kathy Cecil-Sanchez, vice president of instruction at LSC-University Park. “That’s the kind of critical thinking that Packback’s platform helps to inspire, while also allowing faculty to foster deeper and more substantive engagement with their students.”

Backed by entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Packback’s unique platform assigns a “curiosity score” to students’ discussion posts based on a range of factors, including the open-endedness of questions and the way that students reference sources. The tool also provides feedback on grammar, spelling, and offers students guidance on academic research processes like citing sources and paraphrasing. All these elements of the Packback platform are designed to spark students’ intrinsic motivation, as well as to help instructors focus on providing more substantive guidance and support to students, rather than spending time on more repetitive tasks like correcting grammar.

Laura Ascione