Role-Play for Interactive Learning


Role-play games can create a powerful experience for players. When conducted outside of the classroom in a playful environment, role-play games inspire people to have meaningful interactions with their peers and learn more about their game setting or character. Role-play is also an effective interactive learning technique proven to help students deepen their learning in class. However, teachers wanting to incorporate interactive role-play in their classrooms have trouble not only finding or developing appropriate activities but also facilitating a real-time amorphous activity. In typical in-class role-play activities, many of the learning and socio-emotional benefits of role-playing games are lost.

We interviewed role-play gamers and instructors who use role-play in class to discover how they view role-play differently and how they use technology in role-play differently. We are investigating how facilitators manage role-play activities differently so that we can help teachers find benefits from role-play more like the benefits of role-play games. We are also exploring the possibility of using technology to help teachers conduct role-play activities. Our research revealed two primary ways that educators can draw on role-play game expertise to improve the quality of classroom role-play: group cohesion and preserving the spirit of the experience.


How role play games can inform interactive learning systems, CHIPlay 2017


Amy Cook
Jessica Hammer
Steven Dow


Augmented Reality is an innovation technology which challenges all learning and teaching method and strategy. Our team seeks a new approach to improve AR technology more stable and easy to use in an education setting. We also integrated research in astronomy education, information science, reading behavior. Our research also cover technological development, “The Second Space” is one of our representative work.

The Second Space is a new generation of AR engine on Android platform for education which develops by our four years research. It allows users to create an AR environment without programming. This project is still running, and a beta version has released on Google Play. Now, our ongoing research projects focus on learner’s behavior who used AR in learning support.

This project is lead by visiting scholar Jia Zhang and supervised by Amy Ogan. Contact us if you are interested in this field.



Our team seeks to improve peer feedback on student presentations. Many college courses require students to give in-class presentations. This raises a number of challenges. Students who watch the presentation are typically not participating actively. Professors can be overwhelmed trying to provide feedback while also managing the class. The presenting students would benefit from receiving more feedback than the professor can provide.

This project introduces PeerPresents, an in-class peer feedback system we developed to improve the feedback process for in-class presentations. Our real-time interactive website allows students to provide feedback according to the presenting team’s needs, then encourages the presenting team to digitally organize and reflect on the comments they got from their peers. This reflection interface enables learners to turn peer feedback into actionable next steps for their project.

We are currently using this system to ask deeper questions about how students learn from the peer feedback process, both in receiving feedback from others and by giving feedback to their peers. We are investigating how students reflect on the comments they receive, how this reflection enhances student learning, and how to teach students to meaningfully reflect on peer feedback. We are also investigating how to help students learn to be expert critiquers and recognize when they provide helpful or unhelpful feedback. The PeerPresents system also supports instructors through the peer feedback process. Our system provides research opportunities to understand instructor motivations for using peer feedback in their class and what instructors need to make peer feedback more effective.

Use Our Tool

If you are an instructor who wants to use PeerPresents in your classroom, please email Amy Cook to learn more.

Get Involved

We are looking for undergraduates to help develop the tool, implement classroom studies, and analyze data. Ideal developer candidates will be familiar with Javascript, Node.js, CSS, SQL. Ideal data analysis candidates will be familiar with qualitative data analysis methods and R. You will have the opportunity to work with experts in HCI and learning science and to creatively influence the direction of the research!

If interested, please email your resume to Amy Cook.


Amy Cook
Jessica Hammer
Steven Dow


Teachers have a lot of demands, and not enough time for as much professional development as they would like. ClassInSight uses sensors to collect data like student attendance, participation, facial expressions, and hand raises. The goal is to use these data to help instructors improve. For now, the work is taking place in college classrooms being taught by student instructors. One of the common issues in these contexts is challenge of getting students to participate in class discussion, especially in technical courses.


graphs of classroom data
Data taken from classroom is turned into a report for teachers to use for reflection.

One way to address this goal is by giving instructors live updates about the state of the classroom in order to help them remember to try different strategies. For example, in one study we showed instructors a tablet that used different colors to represent when they were talking, when the students were talking, and a 3-second sliding animation whenever they went silent. Research shows that when teachers ask a question they generally don’t wait long enough before answering it themselves. Likewise, rather than wait for students to elaborate on their answers or allow another student to speak up, teachers will typically evaluate every student comment immediately. By extending these pauses, however, teachers can dramatically increase their students’ participation, as well as test scores. We showed teachers an orange screen when they were talking. After they stopped, the screen would animate a sliding transition to a different color that represented that they had waited long enough. We found that we could use this peripheral display to get instructors to think more deeply about the amount of time that they wait, and to wait longer in order to try to get their students to talk.


Another way to use classroom data is to support teacher reflection. We use this sensor-driven approach to gather information about how much students are talking, how long the wait time is, what types of questions instructors are asking, and so on. After they are done teaching, we send the instructors data visualizations and ask them questions that support reflection and goal setting, as well as help expose them to new strategies.


This is an online training system with personal data embedded within, kind of like what you would get out of a fitbit. Unlike a step-counter, however, the innovation with this work is that it can guide people through learning and practicing completely new teaching strategies that they may not already know about. By seeing what they did, reflecting on its efficacy, and seeing if they are achieving their interaction goals, instructors can use the app to plan for what they will do in the next session. Over time, we find that those who use these technologies may even increase in their sense of self-efficacy for teaching.

David Gerritsen
Amy Ogen
John Zimmerman
Chris Harrison
Yuvraj Agarwal

Educational Technology Across Cultures (ETAC)

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The ETAC (Educational Technology Across Cultures) project looks at educational technology that is relevant in places that have multilingual classrooms, where English is one of the modalities, but not the only one that students use. The project looks into how students navigate single language technologies when they have multiple languages in their background

This project has branches in 4 sites around the world: Philippines, Tanzania, Chile and the Ivory Coast.


Technology that is designed in a Western context doesn’t transfer very well to the rest of the world. Work that we’re doing in the Philippines is to investigate some of the phenomena that we see. We are looking to see how students in classrooms where they speak multiple languages leverage their local language with the main language and considering how students approach technology given their vast experiences.


We took a piece of technology that was developed at CMU that we thought should be shared with partner schools in Chile, because this technology is used across the US in thousands of classrooms. We were very interested to see what typical classroom behavior patterns were and how the technology would influence classroom behavior. Classrooms and computer labs in Chile were observed to see how the technology is not aligned with their prefered ways of interacting in the classroom. The system expects a 1:1 student to computer interaction, which isn’t the case in the cultural context of Chile. We are looking into how adaptive technology can be created that’s meant to adapt to student performance when the student to computer ratio isn’t 1:1.

Ivory Coast:

This project involved leveraging current technology present in the Ivory Coast to enable mobile learning on dumb phones. We are using the infrastructure that already exists in the Ivory Coast, and not taking new technology to introduce. This project aims to deliver curriculum to students through these basic phones to teach them French.


  1. Yarzebinski, E., Dumdumaya, C., Rodrigo, Ma. M. T.,  Matsuda, N., Ogan, A. (to appear). How students in different cultures customize their AIED agent’s characteristics. To appear as a short paper at the 18th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education.
  2. Ogan, A., Yarzebinski, E., Fernández, P., & Casas, I. (2015). Cognitive Tutor Use in Chile: Understanding Classroom and Lab Culture. In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (pp. 318-327). Springer International Publishing.
  3. Yarzebinski, E., Ogan, A., Rodrigo, M. M. T., & Matsuda, N. (2015). Understanding Students’ Use of Code-Switching in a Learning by Teaching Technology. In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (pp. 504-513). Springer International Publishing.


Amy Ogan
Evelyn Yarzebinski