Teacherbot: interventions in automated teaching

Promises of ‘teacher-light’ tuition and of enhanced ‘efficiency’ via automation of teaching have been with us since the early days of digital education, sometimes embraced by academics and institutions, and sometimes resisted as a cost-cutting measure which is damaging to teacher professionalism and to the humanistic values of education itself. In this project we re-visited the notion of teacher ‘automation’ from a critical perspective which looks freshly and openly at the idea of the pedagogic ‘automaton’.

The project developed a Twitterbot to help explore new ways of valuing teacher presence which are not resistant to the generative potential of automation. This view sees technological development not as taking place in order to solve a problem, or to address a deficit in teacher ability or productivity, but rather explores how human and non-human teachers might work together in a teaching ‘assemblage’. 

We drew on our experience of teaching at massive scale in the Edinburgh Coursera Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ‘E-learning and digital cultures’, one of the first wave of Edinburgh MOOCs which has now run twice, with total enrolments of 70,000 across three course runs. The project attempted to research and theorise some creative and critical futures for a MOOC pedagogy in which the ‘teacher function’ might become less a question of living teacher presence and more a posthuman mash-up of video, algorithm and automated process.

Key contact: Sian Bayne

Read a news article about the project and an academic article about it in Teaching in Higher Education

Research areas
Digital Cultures
Research team

Sian Bayne | Jeremy Knox | Hadi Mehrpouya | Hamish Macleod | Jen Ross | Christine Sinclair | Chris Speed | John Lee | Jeff Haywood


College of Humanities and Social Science 'Challenge Investment Fund' award, The University of Edinburgh


Related news

Voxpops image

Vox pops on robots

Children's thoughts on teaching automation

Will robots take over teaching at schools?  What aspects of teaching will they be good or bad at?  This video is based on a series of vox pops that invited children to tell us about their thoughts on robots in general, what it would be like to have a robot teacher, and what might a robot be like in twenty years from now.

'I think they're quite intelligent' 


'Might be a bit better at teaching becuase they know more answers to things'