Harvard University’s CS50, the world’s most popular online learning course, is undergoing a significant overhaul. The course, an introductory computer science course attended by hundreds of students on campus and over 40,000 online, will now use artificial intelligence (AI) to grade assignments, teach coding, and personalize learning tips. The decision to use AI was made by Professor David J. Malan, who has taught CS50 since 2007.
Malan said using AI would allow him to better engage with the growing number of students logging in from different time zones and with varying levels of knowledge and experience. “Even with over a hundred real-life teaching assistants, it had become difficult to engage with all of our students fully,” said Malan. “AI will allow us to provide personalized feedback and support to each student, regardless of where they are in the world or their level of experience.”
Professor Malan and his team are currently fine-tuning an AI system that will be used to mark students’ work. The AI system will be able to identify errors and coding bugs, but it will also be able to offer suggestions and rhetorical questions to help students learn. This will free up human teaching assistants to spend more time in-person or online, providing support to students.