How Will AI Change the Education Process?
Formal education, be it basic, in primary or secondary schools, in apprenticeship environments, or at the academic level, is a sensitive, institutionally supervised and regulated issue. Education forms and guides our knowledge, skills, social values, beliefs, habits, and our view of the world. It’s no wonder then that artificial intelligence (AI), as a highly sophisticated teaching tool, is moving into the center of attention in the important realm of education. Experts and casual observers, as well as the prospective providers of advanced teaching materials are thinking about how to best fashion AI to fit into the socially accepted context of teaching and learning.
So, what role is AI going to play in formal education? Especially when taking into consideration that already preschool-age children are routinely playing with gadgets like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, which are controlled by AI-enabled voice recognition and interaction. The US-based online magazine and podcast service ‘The Tech Edvocate’ cites a recent market report forecasting a growth rate of up to 50 percent for AI systems used in education.
Considering the suggestions of The Tech Edvocate, there are several different roles AI may play in education. The first, and most obvious role is the automation of the time-consuming grading process of students’ work that takes so much of the teachers’ time and energies. Farthest along is the grading of standard multiple-choice materials, where just the correct insertion of predefined student answers is required. But the didactic experts are looking forward to substantial progress in AI for adequately assessing and evaluating more literary materials like essays and opinions.
Next on the agenda is alleviating teachers of exhausting chores such as the repeated communication of learning materials. Soon, this could be taken over by Internet-based chatbots. In a college environment they would act as teaching assistants to convey materials to students and assess their responses to work assignments – without students even noticing that there was no live person sitting at the other end.
Now to AI’s equally important role in supporting specific needs of students: There is the somewhat futuristic sounding concept of extending the presence of college-bound teaching assistants well into our professional lives. Knowing our personal strengths and weaknesses, they could serve as coaches and companions. More generally speaking: as an intelligent tool for the purpose of life-long learning. This could be of undisputed value for people with special needs due to adverse health conditions. Or for immigrants lacking certain social skills in an unfamiliar environment.
All this falls into the category of personalized tutoring, inside and outside of the classroom. This exactly seems to be the special advantage that AI has to offer: Ensuring educational success by presenting the teaching materials in an attractive and captivating way. Participating in online classes for all stages in life is certainly a growing trend. Even if they lack the personal experience of a physical presence and on-site bonding with your classmates, they fulfill an important purpose of opening the educational system to all corners of the world. If there is an appropriate mix of online and offline experiences powered by AI methodologies this could lead to a whole new way of enacting best practices for teachers and students alike.