Side view of a open book.

UbiCos System Overview

We created an environment called Ubiquitous Collaboration Support (UbiCoS) encompassing three different digital platforms. The aim of the system is to support collaboration and help-giving (the way students provide help to each other), and improve/increase students’ collaborative interactions across different contexts. We also designed the system to better understand whether students’ help-giving and/or learning benefits from the addition of multiple contexts. 

In addition to the collaborative support, we also designed and implemented a tool which students used to report their motivation within and between class activities. The tool was designed using the concept Personas [Cooper, 1999] and is described in more detail below. 

This system was designed to be paired with an 8th grade math curriculum that promotes productive interactions in both face-to-face and digital environments following Modeling Pedagogy. For more information on this curriculum, see the curriculum page of our website


To complement the curriculum and the small-group and whole-class discussions, students interact in the following three digital contexts.


Modelbook is an interactive digital textbook called ModelBook with the following features:

In ModelBook, students can see two windows: instructions text on the left, and one of two interactive tools on the right as follows. 

Figure 1: Gallery Discussion Interface – space to upload work on the right and a group chat on the right

To view a demo of Modelbook for the study, check out the following video:

Khan Academy 

The other collaborative platform used is Khan Academy ( Khan Academy provides: 

Our system encouraged students to use specific help-giving language as demonstrated in the following video. By answering questions, students are encouraged to articulate their understanding and engage in help-giving behavior with a broader group than just their immediate classroom. Figure 2 shows questions and answers posted by the students in the Khan Academy interface. 

To view a demo of how students used Khan Academy, check out the following video:

Figure 2: Student discussion in Khan Academy

Cobi Virtual Teachable Agent

The third digital context was a Virtual Teachable Agent adapted from Lubold, et al. (2019). In this system, students work individually with a virtual agent on a desktop/laptop to help it solve mathematics problems as follows: 

  1. Students follow a provided worked example and explain each step to the agent
  2. The agent responds in spoken dialogue 

The agent was designed to respond to different answers that a student might provide. For example, if the student provides the correct answer but not an explanation, the agent prompts the students to elaborate. 

The digital agent provides yet another type of context to practice collaborating and help-giving. 

View a demo of the agent at the following link:

Automated help-giving support 

The system implemented support for student help-giving across Modelbook, Khan Academy, and the Virtual Agent. The automated help-giving support included the following features: 

Persona Tool

To help us understand student motivation in learning and to help us build better adaptive support for students, we developed a method for dynamically assessing motivation within the context of digital adaptive learning environments.

We embedded four personas [Ahmed et al, 2021] into an interactive tool in the digital textbook interface (ModelBook). As is typical in persona methods, each persona included: 

  1. a name
  2. a picture
  3. a short narrative 

Personas were designed over the course of two stages of co-design. Persona tools assessed student motivation as follows. 

  1. Students reported their motivational value using a survey at the beginning of the study
  2. We matched students with a persona based on the survey
  3. Before each of the digital activities, we asked students to modify the characteristics of their matched persona if they did not feel like it aligned with their self-perceptions 

The following image demonstrates the design of the persona tool on the right hand side of the digital textbook. See our Key Takeaways for Researchers and Developers to learn more about the use of this tool. 

Figure 3: Dynamic persona tool on the right side of Modelbook

Cooper, A. (1999). The inmates are running the asylum. Macmillan.

Lubold, N., Walker, E., Pon-Barry, H., & Ogan, A. (2019, June). Comfort with robots influences rapport
with a social, entraining teachable robot. In International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in
Education (pp. 231-243). Springer, Cham.

Ahmed, I., Clark, A., Metzger, S., Wylie, R., Bergner, Y., & Walker, E. (2021, June). Interactive Personas: Towards the Dynamic Assessment of Student Motivation within ITS. In International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (pp. 43-47). Springer, Cham.