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September 14, 2022 • 1 minute read
By: Mike Hale, Ph.D., Chief Learning and Content Officer

VitalSource has long been committed to increasing student success through easy access to affordable content. We also believe that if you can, you must improve learning for students and expand educational opportunities for all learners. Of course, we are not alone in this view and it is the reason many companies have built assessment-rich course materials. 

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Blog > The Value of Artificial Intelligence in Digital Learning

January 25, 2024 • 1 minute read

The Value of Artificial Intelligence in Digital Learning

Learning Science


The topic of Artificial Intelligence in education is a critical and timely one and at a recent conference I was asked an interesting question. 
During a panel at the recent Textbook Affordability Conference (TAC) in Chicago, I was asked about what the VitalSource AI study tool, Bookshelf CoachMe®, does for the affordability of etexts. It was an important question that combines two of the key pillars of our business.  
My answer is simple – it adds value. While the focus of the TAC conference is understandably how to lower costs for students, another way to do it is by delivering a better experience for the same cost. Bookshelf CoachMe is just that – a better learning experience at no additional cost. We know this is true because we built the tool on proven learning science principles, and we study it using student data from natural learning contexts.  

Here’s how it works. Bookshelf CoachMe is a free feature included in the Bookshelf ereader that embeds practice questions alongside an etext. As they read, students see AI-generated questions that reinforce the learning objectives of the section. This act of practicing while reading, or learning by doing, is proven to be six times more effective than reading alone. We know this because this “Doer Effect has been studied for many years.  

In my answer to this thoughtful question of “how does Bookshelf CoachMe help affordability,” I talked about how the learning science-based approach we take to Bookshelf CoachMe’s design has nothing to do with AI solutionism, which I often derisively refer to as “AI is the solution… now what’s the problem?”

Instead, we take these proven learning science principles as foundational blocks. We ask, “since we know this works, how can we use AI to help us scale it to benefit more students?” If there wasn’t solid scientific evidence that the Doer Effect causes better outcomes, we wouldn’t be justified in scaling it. 

Using this free feature, more than 500,000 students have answered over 9 million practice questions so far. The feedback from students and instructors is overwhelmingly positive about the impact of this simple-to-use feature that is powered by AI. The power and use cases for AI have already changed a great deal since we launched Bookshelf CoachMe in 2022 and surely the change will continue and accelerate, but the principles that guide us will remain.  

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