College Faculty Can Now Use AI to Coach Students on Long-form Essay Writing

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Popular discussion platform Packback launches Deep Dives tool to help students improve writing and critical thinking skills

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“Our work is about enabling instructors to spend more time connecting with their students who need the most support; and freeing instructors to focus on concepts and complex themes, rather than correcting grammar mistakes.”

Packback, whose inquiry-based online discussion platform is used at hundreds of colleges around the country, today announced the launch of Deep Dives, an AI-enabled coach developed to help students improve their writing. Deep Dives was designed to give every student an AI writing assistant that guides them through every step of the writing process and provides feedback on their writing mechanics, flow, and structure. For instructors, Deep Dives automates the tedious and laborious process of grading writing mechanics, allowing them to instead focus their feedback on students’ content and ideas.

“What makes Packback’s approach unique is that it levels the playing field for all students, regardless of skill level,” said Dr. Samuel Cannon, Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University-Shreveport. “The real-time feedback they receive while they write builds their confidence, encourages good writing habits, and helps them achieve mastery — while also freeing up time for me to focus on the meaningful, substantive feedback.”

Research has repeatedly shown that providing students with feedback in context is far more effective at improving students' writing skills, compared to running discrete grammar practice or drills. Deep Dives provides personalized AI writing coaching while students write their assignments, bringing grammar and mechanics feedback into context. Instructors can customize the AI-supported categories of their assignment rubrics, allowing them flexibility over what type of feedback students receive. The platform also provides students with formative feedback on their flow, organization, grammar, research quality, and formatting. By providing immediate feedback that is mapped to the real assignment rubric, Deep Dives enables students to refine their own work before submission to their instructor for final review.

Initial results suggest Deep Dives leads to a significantly higher rate of A’s received by students on their writing, more students reporting feeling confident when completing writing assignments, and faster grading times for instructors.

“The past two years have widened existing gaps in writing proficiency that can cause students to fall behind in their academic progress. Technologies like Packback can ensure that all students receive the formative writing feedback they need to develop a strong foundation of writing skills,” said Jessica Tenuta, co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Packback. “Our work is about enabling instructors to spend more time providing their students with feedback on their concepts and content, rather than correcting grammar mistakes. Together with our school and district partners, we’re working to make the writing process more engaging and meaningful in ways that will inspire students to keep writing throughout their college journey and beyond.”

Backed by entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Packback uses proprietary AI and machine learning technology to provide inquiry-based online discussion and long-form writing support to over 8,000 instructors and over 1.5 million students, who have posted 87 million questions and responses to date through its platform. A recent study conducted in partnership with 10 higher education institutions indicates that students in classes that use Packback received more A, B, C grades and fewer D, F, W's than the control group, and also cited sources approximately 2.5 times as often as students in the control group.

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Layne Turci
Packback
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