Examining perceptions and outcomes of AI versus human course assistant discussions in the online classroom

Patric R. Spence, Renee Kaufmann, Kenneth A. Lachlan, Xialing Lin, Stephen A. Spates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


As technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and other forms of machine communication become more popular and readily available, the opportunities for use in an online class increase. This replication and extension sought to understand and test the use of AI versus human communication in an online learning space—specifically the learning management system (LMS) discussion board. More specifically, the differences in student perceptions and outcomes between those with a human course assistant and those assigned to an AI course assistant were examined. These perceptions were studied through the presence and absence of the identity heuristic and helper heuristic as outlined in previous literature. The study employed a four-condition randomized quasiexperimental design. Outcomes of interest included credibility, task attraction, social attraction, computer-mediated competence, student communication satisfaction, affect toward instructor, and affect toward taking classes with the instructor. Findings supported previous work regarding importance of helper heuristics and highlighted the preference for a human over AI/machine educational agent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-142
Number of pages22
JournalCommunication Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 National Communication Association.


  • AI; online discussion boards; communication technology; instructional communication
  • human–machine communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics


Dive into the research topics of 'Examining perceptions and outcomes of AI versus human course assistant discussions in the online classroom'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this