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Walden News // Aug 11, 2021

Walden University Creates AI-powered Tutor Built with Google Cloud

Minneapolis—August 11, 2021—Walden University is spearheading a dynamic artificial intelligence (AI) tool that helps students reinforce their learning through practice. The Walden AI-powered tutor, named Julian™, is built with Google Cloud's AI and machine learning (ML) capabilities, driving personalized experiences and knowledge mastery through various educational engagement activities.

“The Walden AI-powered tutor is part of our university’s mission to drive student success through innovation in higher education,” says Steven Tom, chief transformation officer at Walden. “The breakthrough cognitive tutor transforms learning and knowledge mastery through the power of AI, enabling a dynamic and engaging nature for instruction. As we continue to develop this tool, it will allow us to provide personalized instruction at scale to meet the needs and busy lives of adult learners.”

Complementing how students learn in professor-led online courses, the Walden AI-powered tutor was developed to help students master concepts – not just review them – through on-demand learning activities. This technology engages students in dialogue via chat functionality, offers learning activities, evaluates student responses, and provides feedback to students.

The tool offers four learning activities, including choose the fact, answer a question, paraphrase practice, and knowledge notes. These activities are auto-generated by AI using ML language models based on Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, also known as BERT, originally developed by Google Brain.

Walden instructors load the course learning content into the tool’s platform and specify the required knowledge in the form of learning units. The AI-powered tutor indexes the content, linking each learning unit back to the relevant sections of the learning content. The instructor then conducts a quality assurance review to ensure the learning units and indexing have been defined correctly.

“While students gain knowledge in their programs, they can use Julian™, the Walden AI-powered tutor, to reinforce concepts and identify learning gaps,” says Karthik Venkatesh, chief information officer at Walden. “Students will see a new set of activities generated by the AI-powered tutor every time they interact with the tool. It also creates educational notes for the student, which they can reference throughout the program and beyond.”

The first phase of development for the AI-powered tutor began in 2019 as a research project by Walden and Google Cloud. The goal of the first pilot was to prove the concept by building a prototype tutor app and to test it with students. Walden University is the first higher education institution to prototype this technology with Google Cloud.

“This application of AI has the potential to open so many doors for further student engagement and success,” says Steven Butschi, head of education at Google Cloud. “By working with Walden University on this technology, we look forward to getting real-time feedback and incorporating learnings to continue iterating on this tool to help students and faculty alike.”

In early development, the AI-powered tutor has been tested by a select group of Walden’s course-based sociology students and competency-based early childhood studies students. About two-thirds of students in the testing group opted to try Julian™ and provided feedback that it was a good addition to their learning process. Specifically, they found it useful in adding to their knowledge on various concepts and for completing assignments.

“At various points in the academic term, we found that different features became even more important for students,” says Tom. “Earlier in the term, the knowledge notes feature was more valuable. Later in the term, having the tool quiz them and assess their knowledge mastery became more valuable. We are using student feedback to work on the next iteration and will test the Walden AI-powered tutor on a wider group of students.”

To learn more, register for Walden University’s demonstration of the AI-powered tutor on August 23, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. ET. Those who register for the event will be able to access an on-demand recording of the session.


About Walden University

More than 50 years ago, Walden University was founded to support adult learners in achieving their academic goals and making a greater impact in their professions and communities. Students from across the U.S. and more than 115 countries are pursuing a certificate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree online at Walden. The university offers more than 100 online degree and certificate programs. Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, For more information, please visit