Software tracks facial expressions to gauge on-line learning success

June 27, 2013 at 5:49 PM
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RALEIGH, N.C., June 27 (UPI) -- Tracking facial expressions can gauge emotions of students in interactive online learning and predict the effectiveness of online tutoring, U.S. scientists say.

Researchers at North Carolina State University report software allowed them to automatically track facial expressions related to anxiety, confusion, engagement and frustration.

"The program, JavaTutor, will not only respond to what a student knows, but to each student's feelings of frustration or engagement," computer science Professor Kristy Boyer said. "This is important because research shows that student emotion plays an important role in the learning process."

The researchers used an automated software program called the Computer Expression Recognition Toolbox to evaluate facial expressions of 65 college students engaged in one-on-one online tutoring sessions.

The program proved accurate in identifying facial movements associated with learning-centered emotions, such as frustration or concentration, the researchers said.

"This work feeds directly into the next stage of JavaTutor system development, which will enable the program to provide cognitive and emotion-based feedback to students," NC State doctoral student and study lead author Joseph Grafsgaard said.

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