HKUST Introduces Asia’s First “AI Lecturers” in Class to Promote Teaching Innovation | The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

March 08, 2024

Following the birth of “AI singers” and “AI weather presenters”, adding to the ever-expanding AI (Artificial Intelligence) family is the inaugural cohort of “AI Lecturers” created by The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) through the utilization of AI-generative tools. The University aspires for this fresh wave of AI teachers and dynamic teaching method to amplify students' motivation and engagement in their learning process. To further enhance students’ learning motivation, the AI teaching team strategically integrates a diverse ensemble of characters, each possessing a distinct nationality, personality and occupational setting. Another notable addition to the AI teaching team is the late scientist Albert Einstein, who has been "resurrected" through the use of AI technology. Students could obtain valuable information regarding campus life through dialogue with the AI AmbassadorAbout The Hong Kong University of Science and TechnologyThe Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (https://hkust.edu.hk/) is a world-class research intensive university that focuses on science, engineering and business as well as humanities and social science.

Following the birth of “AI singers” and “AI weather presenters”, adding to the ever-expanding AI (Artificial Intelligence) family is the inaugural cohort of “AI Lecturers” created by The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) through the utilization of AI-generative tools. 

Thanks to the novel technology, these 10 digital instructors, originating from different parts of the world with diverse nationalities, professions and cultural backgrounds, have already joined HKUST as lecturers. The University aspires for this fresh wave of AI teachers and dynamic teaching method to amplify students' motivation and engagement in their learning process. In the long run, the University aims to develop a personalized AI classroom that considers each student’s interests and preferences, leading the way for a new era of teaching innovation. 

Led by Prof. Pan HUI, Chair Professor of Computational Media and Arts at HKUST(Guangzhou) and Director of the Center for Metaverse and Computational Creativity (MC2) at HKUST, the research team develops the 10 AI instructors with a range of AI tools.  Among these is the state-of-the-art variational 3D full-body generator developed by the team, which overcomes the limitations of similar tools and significantly enhances the characters’ body movements and the authenticity of their facial expressions, ensuring a highly immersive learning experience for students. Other AI tools utilized include the prompt-based AI image generator “Midjourney”, the chatbot “ChatGPT” and “Bing”, an open-source audio-driven image talking face animation generator “SadTalker”, and the team’s enhanced version of the open-source 3D facial animation tool “EmoTalk”. 

In this semester, the University has assigned these instructors to teach a portion of "Social Media for Creatives", a cross-campus course available to students from HKUST and HKUST(GZ). Their teaching responsibilities encompass an array of captivating topics related to different aspects of social media, including storytelling, gamification, immersive technologies, Non-Fungible Token (NFT), nudge theory, and the impact of social media. The main goal of the course is to make students familiar with the homogeneity and unique qualities of social networks, while empowering them with the skills to effectively use multimedia and technology in their research. 

To further enhance students’ learning motivation, the AI teaching team strategically integrates a diverse ensemble of characters, each possessing a distinct nationality, personality and occupational setting. Personae include influencers, policy advocates from various fields, and even 2D and 3D anime characters. Another notable addition to the AI teaching team is the late scientist Albert Einstein, who has been "resurrected" through the use of AI technology. This diverse cast can enrich the classroom experience by transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. 

To understand the impact of “AI lecturers” on learning motivation, teaching effectiveness and student performance, the team has been collecting student feedback after each class. They have been studying how different styles, facial features, verbal and non-verbal cues, dimensions (2D/3D), accents, and communication methods affect its attractiveness, trustworthiness, and closeness to students.  Different versions of these "AI lecturers" have also been implemented to evaluate the impact of character settings and visual effects. Looking ahead, plans are afoot to install interactive features that enable the "AI lectures" to respond to questions and engage in deeper interactions with students using a technique called Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG). The collected students’ perception, including the level of realistic, familiarity, affinity and trust, provides useful grounds for upcoming digital teacher application. To unleash the immense potential of this technology, the ultimate goal of the team is to set up an innovative platform where students can select personalized teacher avatars based on their individual preferences, further promoting personalized and asynchronous learning and fostering greater learning motivation. 

Prof. Hui said, “The emergence of AI opens up a world of infinite possibilities in education. This study not only offers students unique and exciting experiences, but also inspires them to contemplate the application of AI across diverse fields. It also paves the way for pioneering research in AI-driven pedagogy. As collaborative partners to human teachers, AI teachers possess the ability to transform previously mundane subjects into captivating ones. With their support, we hope teachers will be able to devote more time to addressing students' individual learning needs and exploring innovative teaching models."

HKUST has always been a pioneer in innovative education. As the first university in Hong Kong to promote the use of ChatGPT in teaching, HKUST also allocated HKD 10 million last year to establish the Education and Generative AI (EDGE-AI) Fund to encourage their academic staff to apply AI in teaching. As part of the initiative of the “Sustainable Smart Campus as a Living Lab” campaign, the University also recently introduced an “AI Ambassador” this semester. Students could obtain valuable information regarding campus life through dialogue with the AI Ambassador
 

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (https://hkust.edu.hk/) is a world-class research intensive university that focuses on science, engineering and business as well as humanities and social science. HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking. Over 80% of our research work were rated “Internationally excellent” or “world leading” in the Research Assessment Exercise 2020 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee. We were ranked 2nd in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2023, and our graduates were ranked 29th worldwide and among the best from universities from Asia in Global Employability University Ranking 2023. As of September 2023, HKUST members have founded 1,747 active start-ups, including 9 Unicorns and 13 exits (IPO or M&A), generating economic impact worth over HK$ 400 billion. InvestHK cited QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 to demonstrate the performance of five world’s top 100 local universities in several innovation-centric areas, among which HKUST ranked top in four engineering and materials science subjects.

The source of this news is from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

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