Cognii Inc, a Boston-based startup providing artificial intelligence technology for the edtech space, has announced its first direct partnership with a university. The venture will be working with Colorado State University (CSU) in a joint effort to develop a new learning and assessment experience – which could be the first of many artificial intelligence solutions it develops on the university level.

Faculty members at CSU will collaborate with Cognii, using the company’s Virtual Learning Assistant (VLA) technology as the basis for a unique AI tutoring tool that will specifically address comprehension and knowledge retention in the social sciences. The solution is slated to be completed and rolled out by the fall semester.

“It’ll be the first time students are interacting with artificial intelligence for a learning experience.”

Cognii, an alumnus of the LearnLaunch Accelerator’s first cohort, has leveraged both conversational AI and natural language processing technologies in the development of its VLA. As a result, it’s created the framework for intelligent tutoring tools, which allow student users to submit qualitative, open-response answers and receive instant, automatic feedback from the program. Cognii will be working with faculty members at CSU, personalizing its virtual tutorial technology to cater two online undergraduate courses in human development and family studies and psychology, as well as an online graduate course in industrial and organizational psychology.

“We are delighted to partner with CSU, which is a leader in innovative online education,” Dee Kanejiya, CEO and founder of Cognii, said of the partnership. “Virtual assistants and chatbot technologies are today enhancing our lives in many different spheres and has the potential to significantly improve education. Through this partnership, we are looking forward to bringing the benefits of AI to education and training.”

Denise Wydra, Cognii’s COO, told us the startup has been in contact with faculty members at the university for a few years. For some time, the school has expressed interest in improving the quality of student’s online learning tools, especially when it comes to writing. Wydra explained CSU believes that writing is an integral part of learning, helping them with the comprehension and retention of course material.

“They’re very interested in social sciences, where they know students can’t survive by just taking multiple choice questions,” Wydra said.

Up until this point, according to Wydra, the school has struggled to give students the right tools to leverage writing for learning on a broad scale. But Cognii’s AI technology shows much promise for them.

“The use of Cognii in the classroom is expected to improve learning outcomes, turning assessment into learning while enhancing the effectiveness of the time our faculty devote to teaching,” Mike Palmquist, associate provost for instructional innovation at Colorado State, shared in a statement. “Through this partnership, CSU is on the cutting edge of recent research and innovation in the fields of natural language processing, cognitive sciences, and machine learning and an example of how the University is taking bold steps toward transforming access to quality education.”

Cognii is currently working with faculty members and instructional designers to figure out the best way to design an interaction with students. They’re sifting through the course material to present the university with models of what it might look like before they start building a personalized AI tool.

“I’ve looked at a lot of edtech companies and they’re doing great things, but their technology isn’t that cutting edge,” Wydra told us. “We’re using artificial intelligence, not just another teaching aid… It’ll be the first time students are interacting with artificial intelligence for a learning experience.”

Featured image via Paul L Dineen, CC BY 2.0.