Dr. James Gaskin has been a professor of information systems at Brigham Young University for 11 years. He also teaches statistics in an executive doctorate program in Cleveland; but James’s real area of expertise is artificial intelligence, specifically human-AI interactions. In his free time James loves to 3D print, as you can see from his office. He has 3D printed between 60 and 70 architectural wonders at 1/500th scale, making his office almost worthy of being another wonder of the world.
James has lived many different places throughout the world, having moved 31 times in his life. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that his office also has items and influences from all over the world.
He now makes his home in Provo, Utah, with his wife and four daughters, the oldest of whom is currently attending college.
Technology Tools for Instructors
Appropriately, as a professor of IS, James uses a lot of technology in his teaching. He has a YouTube channel where he demonstrates useful statistical concepts and tools; he has a StatWiki site where he provides tutorials and instructions for effective statistical analyses; and he has a statistics resource, Structural Equation Modeling, available through MyEducator. In his regular information systems teaching at Brigham Young University, he makes use of the resource that he coauthored and houses on the MyEducator platform: Intro to Information Systems.
“I could never, ever go back to a physical textbook,” James explains. “I edit the textbook daily.” The quick and easy means of editing MyEducator books is a popular feature with our authors, and one that’s particularly important in technology-based fields. “I can update the book immediately, in real time, as the field changes—whereas with a traditional publisher, it is a long process. And in our field, if you have to wait a year on a cycle to publish, that’s insane!… Many parts of the field have adjusted and shifted within a year, and so by the time it publishes you’re like, ‘well, that’s out of date.’”
Another of MyEducator’s amazing features for instructors is our innovative automated grading options, which are game-changing for large courses like the Introduction to Information Systems class that James teaches at Brigham Young University. “When there are a 1000 … sometimes 1500 students in a single semester, it is really hard to grade stuff.” With a class so large, grading would take James and his team days or even weeks. “Especially code—we teach code—so being able to automatically grade things, so students have instant results, instant performance feedback, the students love it, I love it, the TAs love it. That’s probably one of my favorite parts of MyEducator.”
Technology Tools for Students
MyEducator also understands how powerful technology can be to students in educational settings. That’s why our resources are full of tools to help students learn, including informational videos, built-in flashcards, and a notebook to hold all course-related notes within the textbook’s online platform. But James has ideas to help students even further. Over the summer he created “an expert AI TA” to help the students taking his Intro to Information Systems course. James explains the challenges he was facing with the enormous class load led him to this creative solution.
James used the course textbook as the basis for the AI’s intelligence, and made it available as a chat bubble within the textbook on the MyEducator platform. This feature has been a big hit in the class—it has been used about 75,000 times throughout the semester, often at times when TAs and professors would be unavailable to students. “This AI has done the work of about 50 TAs and has cost less than 1 TA,” James explains. And on top of that, it’s breaking through barriers that might exist in traditional student-professor or student-TA interactions. Students often asked the same question several times in different ways as they honed in on what they didn’t understand, until they got a response that made sense to them. Where a student might not feel free to do this with a human mentor, they do so unabashedly with an AI.
We think James is a pretty amazing educator, and we’re so glad to have his expertise contributing to the resources we have at MyEducator. Not only are his resources top notch, but he’s helping create more tools to help students going forward into the next generation of technology-assisted learning. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!