While creating conscious, autonomous robots is still more of a fantasy, artificial intelligence is making a tangible impact by contributing to education and learning of human beings. From influencing what information is presented to us to possibly changing the role of teachers in the future, AI is making ripples that are too big to be ignored.
Education has never stopped evolving but due to an explosion in IT solutions in recent decades, what we are seeing now is a shift that might change the face of education forever.
It might not be immediately obvious, but artificial intelligence plays a big role in how we interact with information. Services such as Google adapt search results based on location, almost all websites display content based on your previous searches, interests and shopping preferences: Amazon makes recommendations based on your purchase history.
All of that is possible thanks to AI. These systems decide on the way the information is filtered and which bits are presented to us and which ones never meet our eye.
Those, and similar intelligent solutions, do not only affect our personal lives but also professional ones. With AI-powered systems becoming more integrated, students and teachers are likely to have a hugely different experience carrying out research and looking for information that today’s students and teachers do.
Quite possibly the time it takes to find the relevant piece of information in digital repositories will keep shrinking as the search mechanisms become more refined.
Another aspect in which artificial intelligence is changing the face of education is supporting individual needs of each student. Thanks to technology, it is possible to customise courses and activities. This is achieved through adaptive learning programmes, games and other activities that are machine-assisted.
Such tools respond to the needs of each student, allowing them to focus on particular areas that they find more difficult to master. They promote working at a student’s own pace and in a way that is suited to the student’s level. Some schools use AI-based systems to monitor the progress students make and then flag any potential issues or gaps to tutors.
Although the likelihood of teachers being fully replaced with human-like robots is low, there are lots of ways in which teachers’ work can be supported by AI. One of the most basic ones is grading. This essential task normally takes up a lot of teachers’ precious time that they could otherwise spend on preparing lesson plans, coursework and advising students.
Thanks to AI, it is now possible to automate grading of most all types of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. Although automatic grading of more elaborate written responses, such as essays, is still in its infancy, this area is likely to improve in the coming years.
When it comes to grading, humans are prone to being biased, even if unintentionally. Resorting to AI-powered solutions means less bias towards students based on common factors such as race, gender or socio-economic status since machines, unless programmed otherwise, are neutral to those differences.
Machine-assisted automation can be extended to helping teachers cope with other admin tasks such as keeping track of attendance and calculating attendance trends.
As IT skills become more and more desirable, opening new career doors, it is likely that the basics of AI technology will be taught in schools to enable students to better comprehend the surrounding world, which continues to be heavily influenced by technology.
To a certain degree, this is already the case with some of the translation courses, which incorporate elements of machine learning and machine translation. More and more universities teach students how they can interact with machine translation and leverage it in their future careers as translators and post-editors, equipping them with skills that will only become more essential in the future.
As it’s often the case with artificial intelligence, the exact extent to which it will affect our personal and professional lives is hard to determine. But we can be certain that it will continue to play an important role in shaping education in the future.