It’s the year 2021 and, contrary to the expectations of James Cameron and his Terminator series, we don’t have man-eating Arnold Schwarzenegger-looking robots running around the streets and having their twentieth bar mitzvah. Of course, there’s a lot more to artificial intelligence than robots. It is not always as flashy as automated cars or chess-playing software but deep within it, one can find an elegant and flexible tool that makes the statement of “make life easier” a reality. Artificial intelligence in education is not something that comes to mind right off the bat but thinking about it critically, one can see the inevitability as well as the dramatic improvements that can be made if this tool is implemented in the field of education. Here are five ways that show that the future of AI and education is fruitful and might just be a most enjoyable experience.
In universities and secondary schools, grading assignments and tests for large lecture courses can be very tedious work. It often takes up a significant amount of time that could be used to interact with students, prepare for teaching materials and notes, or work on professional development. AI may not be able to truly replace human grading, it’s getting pretty close. It is now possible for teachers to automate grading for nearly all kinds of multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank testing and automated grading of student writing and essays may not be far behind. Today, essay-grading software is still in its infancy and not quite up to par, yet it can (and will) improve over the coming years, allowing teachers to focus more on in-class activities and student interaction than grading.
AI can not only help teachers and students to craft courses that are customized to their needs, but it can also provide feedback to both about the success of their ongoing course as a whole. Some schools, especially those with online offerings, are using AI systems to monitor student progress and to alert teachers when there might be an issue with student performance regarding certain aspects of the syllabus. These kinds of AI systems allow students to get the support they need and for teachers to find areas where they can improve instruction for students who may struggle with the subject matter. Other AI systems are working to develop systems that can help students to choose their field based on areas where they succeed and struggle. While students don’t have to take the advice, it could make making the choice easier and less frightening for future students.
Smart data gathering, powered by intelligent computer systems, is already making changes to how universities interact with prospective and current students. From recruiting to helping students choose the best courses, intelligent computer systems are helping make every part of the university experience more closely tailored to student needs and goals. Data mining systems are already playing an integral role in today’s higher-ed landscape, but artificial intelligence could further alter higher education. Initiatives are already underway at some schools to offer students AI-guided training that can ease the transition between university and secondary school. It is possible that the university selection process may end up, with a system that recommends the best schools and programs for student interests in an intuitive and engaging manner that would appeal to the student’s aesthetics and interests.
While major changes may still be a few decades in the future, the reality is that artificial intelligence has the potential to radically change just about everything we take for granted about education. Using AI systems, software, and support, students can learn from anywhere in the world at any time, and with these kinds of programs taking the place of certain types of classroom instruction, AI may just replace teachers in some instances (for better or worse). Educational programs powered by AI are already helping students to learn basic skills, but as these programs grow and as developers learn more, they will likely offer students a much wider range of services.
While there are obvious things that human tutors can offer that machines cannot yet offer, the future could see more students being tutored by tutors that only exist in binary and electrical pulses. Some tutoring programs based on artificial intelligence already exist and can help students through basic mathematics, writing, and other subjects. These programs can teach students fundamentals, but so far are not ideal for helping students learn high-order thinking, creativity, and other more organic aspects of learning, something that real-world teachers are still required to facilitate. However, that shouldn’t rule out the possibility of AI tutors being able to do these things in the future. With the rapid technological advancement that has been the mainstay of the past few decades, advanced tutoring systems may not be too far away.
And although all of these are not flashy, it is said that the simple things in life are the best. Artificial Intelligence integration in education will be a beautiful thing to watch over the next few years.