Paamsongre Courseware Chatbots 


1. Paamsongre Courseware development

Paamsongre Courseware, as I came to name this platform after six years of organic development, began as a graduate school assignment which tasked us [graduate teaching assistants] with creating our own professional website. Some of the suggested tabs for this website were an AboutUs page, a teaching philosophy page, a CV page, a scholarship page, and a pedagogy page. This latter page originally had a list of courses taught alongside the course descriptions and links to course syllabi. Upon completing the assignment and realizing the kind of flexibility that iWeb, Apple’s then template-based website creation tool, offered in terms of the spatial arrangement of items compared to my institution’s LMS, I decided to add more content to the pedagogy page such as course assignments and calendar and used it in tandem with my institution’s LMS for teaching.


Two years after creating the site, the cloud-based movement led Apple to retire iWeb. This decision forced me to migrate my site to a different web host, and this process led me to explore a wide range of applications that could be used for teaching. This exploration was guided by students’ input, often in the form of suggestions or their experiences using various applications. As semesters passed, more applications were tested and sometimes adopted and more course materials were moved to the site. At some point, students only used my institution’s LMS for submitting their papers and checking their grades.

My web development skills were further enriched by my experience working as content developer for a digital textbook company and co-authoring a digital textbook for first-year composition. From this collaborative work with education consultants, technology experts, video producers, graphic designers, marketing agents, and fellow content developers, I came to realize that writing instructors need to be at the forefront of online teaching platform development for writing instruction. Said simply, online teaching platforms should not be designed for us to use, but instead, we should be designing them. 

Upon taking on a full-time teaching position and building on my teaching, content development, and web development experiences and skills, I decided to take my teaching website to another level by making it a stand-alone teaching platform with the full features of an academic LMS. Academic LMS products, as Foreman (2018) describes, typically include 1) user management, 2) course management, and 3) administration. User management supports the creation and maintenance of user accounts, enables users to log in to their accounts through authentication, and stores important information about each user through associated profiles. Course management supports the integration of course materials such as lessons and assignments, course syllabus, learning goals, and schedule. It also supports interactive tools such as surveys, quizzes, and pools, web conferences, instructor-to-student and student-to-student messaging systems, discussion topics, group and collaborative workspaces. Administration supports features not available to students such as grouping users based on assigned roles, permission management, online classroom creation, class roster and gradebook, reports, analytics, and statistics.

2. Paamsongre Courseware Features 

2.0 - Logo
Paamsongre Courseware

The name “Paamsongre'' is a bimorphemic word in Mooré, a West African language primarily spoken in Burkina Faso, meaning “Get Help.” The LMS was named this way to reflect its ultimate goal to ‘help’ student users. Paamsongre Courseware can be thought of as ‘the learning management system, textbook, and classroom instruction merged and re-imagined.’ On the platform homepage, it is described to students as “the single place you go to access all course-related materials: syllabus, calendar, readings, lectures, course assignments, homework, sample student papers, and assignment submission pages.”

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2.1 -Course Registration
Course Registration Interface

Each course in Paamsongre Courseware is listed as an e-text with different lessons. The e-text title may be different from the course title as in Ethnography: Research and Writing for a theme-based first-year composition course.

When student users land on the cover page/course registration page, they can see the titles of the different lessons, as well as a brief description of each lesson by clicking on the arrow next to it to expand it. While the cover page is ‘public,’ only registered student users can access the course content by signing up. If students are being charged a fee to access the course content, it is while they are signing up that they get to pay those fees. It is also during the sign-up phase that students are asked to read the LMS privacy policy and check the box confirming their agreement prior to completing the registration process. The sign-up setting options also let the instructor decide how long student users will have access to the course content.

The course registration and account creation enable tracking student course activities by linking usage data to associated profiles. Not having this component makes it virtually impossible to know who is doing what on the LMS. The e-Commerce function of the platform is what makes the e-texts/courses listing, registration, and account creation possible.

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2.2 - Homepage
Course Homepage Interface

After signing-up, student users are redirected to the homepage. The beauty of building one’s own LMS is the ability to design the homepage or other pages to taste. On Paamsongre Courseware, the homepage for every course has the following elements: the e-text title as in Ethnography: Research & Writing, the course calendar, which displays the day by day course events for student users, the syllabus, and the course lessons.

For a portfolio-based course, the lessons can be ordered to reflect the progression of the assignments. For a course with writing assignments that are not directly related to one another or assignments that students can complete in their own chosen order, a circular display of the lessons may be more appropriate.

Other elements on the homepage are the Paamsongre Logo, the icons indexing multiple modes of content delivery, the chatbox, and the “all rights reserved” copyright disclaimer.

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2.3 - Lesson Interface
Lesson Interface

Each lesson in Paamsongre Courseware centers on an assignment, i.e., in every lesson, student users work towards a paper. The lesson is designed as a timeline of different segments, mirroring the writing process.

Each lesson starts with a “lesson overview” segment, followed by an invention segment generally consisting of generating information for the paper through reading activities, brainstorming activities, primary or secondary research activities, text analysis activities, etc. The invention segment is generally followed by a genre segment, which details the genre requirements, structure, and conventions of the paper to be written and submitted at the end of the lesson. The genre segment is generally followed by a revision segment, which consists of revision activities such as using targeted writing techniques to revise the paper, peer-reviews, rubric-based revisions, etc. Each lesson ends with the assignment segment, consisting of the assignment sheet, examples of the paper, and the assignment submission page.

Each segment is divided into different pages that student users navigate either using the side arrows or the bottom menu.

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2.4 - Segment Interface
2.5 - Calendar
Course Calendar

PaamSongre Courseware incorporates an interactive course calendar, accessible via the calendar icon at the top left corner of each page, next to the homepage icon. This calendar comes with different viewing options, and course events appear under specific dates. Student users can click on those dates to get a more detailed description of their tasks that day. The details include the exact time at which students are to complete a task, the description of the task, the location of the task, etc.

Whenever student users land on the calendar, they do not have to scroll up and down searching for the day’s date as the calendar is automatically set to show upcoming events, not all events. If students want to see past events, they also have the option to do so. Just like an online calendar, student users can, with a click, add the course calendar to their own calendar and receive automatic daily notifications and reminders about course events.

At a time when students’ phones are their primary outlet to the world, being able to send course reminders and notifications directly to their phone is a great way to keep them on track. The course calendar can be set to automatically adjust itself based on different time zones.

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2.6 - Chat Box
Chat Box

Besides the ability to directly email the instructor from the platform, Paamsongre Courseware
also offers the possibility to chat with the instructor from any of its pages.

On the frontend, students can click on the chat icon to open the chat box. If the instructor is
online, it will be indicated by their status. If they are offline, a different status message such
as “Ask your question here! I typically reply within a few hours!” will be displayed.

On the backend, the instructor has the ability to customize the messages that display when
they are online or offline, set up quick messages to reply to frequently asked questions,
define their operating hours, add additional operators such as teaching assistants or student
workers to increase their online presence and quickly answer student questions, stimulate
students to ask questions when they come online, etc.

The chat feature is a handy tool that prompts students to ask questions, given its
conversational rather than formal nature. It spares them from always having to write formal
emails to have their questions answered.

Look at the lower right corner of your page to explore Paamsongre's Chat feature!

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3. Need for Chatbots 

In 2013, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), the world’s largest professional organization for researching and teaching composition, from writing to new media, established a number of guiding principles for effective Online Writing Instruction (OWI). The CCCC Principles  are a set of operating principles divided in five sections: 1) overarching principle, 2) instructional principles, 3) faculty principles, 4) institutional principles, and 5) research principles. 

The overarching principle or first principle of OWI is that “Online Writing Instruction should be universally inclusive and accessible” (CCCC, 2013). This principle emphasizes the needs of learners with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, multilingual backgrounds and learning challenges related to socioeconomic issues in an OWI environment. As Borgman and McArdle (2020) suggest, the conception of accessibility in a writing course should move beyond Americans with Disabilities Act type of issues to include anything that might impede students (p.37). In Paamsongre Courseware, OWI Principle 1 is met in several ways, which are its design, its multimodal content delivery, and its cost


An online learning platform with good navigation, a feature of accessibility, improves student engagement as they can concentrate more on the content and learning in lieu of trying to determine what to do next. While a well-structured and designed navigation helps reduce clutter as well as the presentational complexity of a course, this feature does not eliminate the learning curve of using a new platform.  It always takes some time for users to figure out the platform’s organization. 

As evidenced by my 4-year experience using Paamsongre Courseware at SAU, there are always many student questions the first few weeks of the semester. These  questions span from determining  platform navigation and assignment due dates, locating course assignments, lectures, activities, calendar, and syllabus,  submitting assignments, to verifying whether assignments have been successfully submitted. As the semester progresses, not only do the volume of questions decreases, but their nature also shifts into more content-related questions. 

The chat box component of Paamsongre Courseware, introduced earlier, constitutes the main route for students to ask questions and have them answered. This feature has significantly improved communication between students and the instructor in that it is not only accessible on every course page enabling students to ask questions with a click, but it is also accessible on multiple devices (laptop, desktop, smartphone) on the instructor’s end, which shortens the response time. Its instant messaging (IM) characteristic enables students to see if the instructor is online and vice versa. It also enables the instructor to know from which page a student has initiated the chat enabling answering questions with more precision. Fundamentally, the chat feature in Paamsongre Courseware generates instantaneous communication making it easier for students to have their questions answered and clarify points of confusion. 

Although the chat component has been very helpful in handling student questions in a timely manner, its main limitations are that: 

  • The instructor is not available 24/7 to answer questions. 
  • The reaction time, although shorter than emails’, could still prevent some students from moving as fast as they would like because the instructor could be busy and not be able to answer questions right away. 

To address these two main limitations of the Paamsongre Courseware chat system and unintendedly address other general shortcomings of online learning – lack of instant communication, lack of timely feedback, course navigation issues,  unclear instructions and expectations –  the next logical opportunity in Paamsongre Courseware is the the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Chatbots.

Chatbots are one of the latest and trendy educational technologies with artificial intelligence. They are virtual agents endowed with speech or text capabilities programmed to simulate conversations in a scripted way (Rouse, 2017). Education AI Chatbots are primarily used for assisting students with platform navigation or course content concerns by generating as suitable and timely a response as possible to inputted text or speech through Natural Language Processing (NLP) and deep machine learning (Nieves, 2018). 

There are many advantages to using Chatbots in an online learning environment. The first of these advantages is that students do not have to wait for hours for their instructors’ responses as chatbots can provide them with instantaneous, scaffolded support. Unlike teachers who have a limited online presence, chatbots are available 24/7 to answer student questions. The use of Chatbots can be expanded to triggering conversations with students, encouraging them to performing better, providing them with useful tips and insights, and reminding them not to slack off via push-notifications.  As such, chatbots reduce students’ frustration and wait time for teacher responses and mostly importantly help them become independent learners. 

On the teacher’s end, chatbots are big time savers as they can be programed to answer frequently occurring questions hence saving instructors from having to answer repetitive questions about course content, assignment due dates, and specific resource location. Ultimately, AI chatbot integration within online learning platforms allows teachers to provide education rather than IT support to students’ queries, which also addresses CCCC (2013) Principle 2: “an online writing course should focus on writing and not on technological orientation or teaching students how to use learning and other technologies.”

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