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​NTU Singapore collaborates with IBM on a virtual tutor for future doctors

Published on: 25-Oct-2017

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) is collaborating with IBM to develop a virtual tutor designed to assist the learning of medical students at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine), a partnership between NTU Singapore and Imperial College London (Imperial). Teams from LKCMedicine and IBM will work together to create a proof-of-concept Medical School Tutor for medical students.

By leveraging IBM’s artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning capabilities, the proof-of-concept Medical School Tutor aims to give students access to a personalised, interactive AI learning support system. The virtual tutor may take various forms, such as a mobile application, a computer programme with voice command or integrated into the School’s Team-Based Learning platform. The goal is to design a virtual tutor with the ability to adapt learning to each individual, and with algorithms equipped to analyse students’ performance, weaknesses and strengths, and help them polish up areas that they may need help with.  

Building on LKCMedicine’s existing digital resource, this initiative aims to enrich the School’s established Team-Based Learning pedagogical model, to tailor learning and teaching to the needs of each student, and enhancing their ability to achieve the expected learning outcomes.

Professor Kam Chan Hin, NTU Deputy Provost of Education said, “NTU’s exciting collaboration with IBM is truly a game changer for medical education. In addition to the personal teaching environment at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, AI and deep learning technologies will enable NTU to provide its medical students with a highly customised learning experience so that they can find the most effective path to success in their studies. This is an important milestone in NTU’s move in the last few years towards technology-enhanced learning, which uses multimedia components such as 2D/3D animations, simulations, augmented and virtual reality.”  

Virtual tutor to complement personal teaching

The Medical School Tutor will have the potential to supplement teaching as it aims to deliver personalised and scalable guidance, to enable students to better assimilate and apply their knowledge, and prepare them for clinical practice in a range of healthcare settings, from the clinic to the emergency department. 

For example, whenever a student wants to recall content on a specific topic to deepen their understanding, the parties plan to design a virtual tutor that potentially can retrieve the relevant learning content, guide the student to help identify key information and deepen their application of knowledge. In this way, the virtual tutor can become an integral part of the students’ learning experience at LKCMedicine, helping students absorb, retain, and contextualise the vast knowledge they acquire in medical school. 

This capability will add to the personalised learning that LKCMedicine students already experience when developing their communication skills with peers and simulated patients in their hands-on science and anatomy practicals and during supervised interactions with patients in hospitals and clinics across Singapore.

“Intelligent tutoring has long been the ultimate goal of personalised learning, and using an intelligent tutor to help augment the training of future doctors is possibly one of the best use-cases of an intelligent tutor,” said Dr Satya Nitta, Global Leader, Cognitive Sciences and Education Technology, IBM Research. “Given how demanding medical education is, and how much more complex it is to layer an AI tutor on top of an already demanding domain, we are very pleased to be collaborating with NTU Singapore to tackle this difficult challenge together.”

This collaborative initiative was made possible due to LKCMedicine’s extensively digitalised curriculum accessible to all students, 24//7. 

In the School’s initial conceptualisation, a key part of feeding the Imperial medical course into LKCMedicine’s new curriculum was the digitalisation of content material. The development of new IT systems at NTU Singapore leveraged this digitalised content and enabled the School to adopt an innovative Team-Based Learning pedagogic model powered by the latest technology. 

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Media contact:

Mr Feisal Abdul Rahman 
Senior Assistant Director  
Corporate Communications Office 
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Email: feisalar(at)

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It also has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI). 
Ranked 11th in the world, NTU has also been ranked the world’s top young university for the last four years running. The University’s main campus has been named one of the Top 15 Most Beautiful in the World. NTU also has a campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

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