As artificial intelligence becomes an increasing part of our daily lives, it’s no wonder that educational institutions are racing to catch up with the need to develop more talent to keep the engine of AI development running. However, not only is education being transformed as far as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula, but the education industry as a whole is being transformed by AI. Increasingly, educational institutions from elementary to higher education as well as adult and professional learning are being transformed by intelligent systems that are helping humans learn better and achieve their learning objectives.
One of the greatest challenges regarding education is that people learn differently and at different rates. Students go through the education system with differing levels of learning ability and aptitude. Some are more adept at "left brain" thinking with skills for analytical thought, while others are more skilled at "right-brain" thinking with creative, literary and communicative ability. Others are challenged in different ways with physical and mental disabilities, or skill sets that differ from one region of the world to another, facing challenges in re-learning new languages and alphabets.
AI systems are being used to tailor and personalize learning for each individual student. Through the power of machine learning-based hyper-personalization, AI systems are being used to develop a custom learning profile of each student and customize the training materials for each student based on their ability, preferred mode of learning and experience. It is expected that by 2024 upwards of 47% of learning management tools will be enabled by AI capabilities. Rather than requiring teachers to create a single curriculum for all students, educators will have augmented intelligence assistance that provides a wide range of materials leveraging the same core curriculum, but cater to the specific needs of each student. These AI-enabled e-Learning tools will reach over $6 Billion in market size by 2024.
Hyperpersonalized and on-demand digital content are also created with the help of AI and machine learning, which is changing the way things are done in education. Big textbooks providers now have their information broken down or condensed into smaller study guides, chapter summaries, flashcards, as well as short smart notes for better reading and understanding. Learning is, therefore, getting paperless with time and soon there will be less or no use of hard copy textbooks for learning. AI systems also have an online interactive interface, which aids in feedback from the students to their professors for follow-up purposes in areas where they might be struggling or have not yet fully grasped.
In addition to customized materials, AI systems are being used to augment tutoring with personal, conversational education assistants. These autonomous conversational agents can answer questions from students, provide assistance with learning or assignment tasks and reinforce concepts with additional materials that can help reinforce the curriculum. These intelligent assistants are also enhancing adaptive learning features so that each of the students can learn at their own pace or time frames.
Adoption of Voice Assistants
In addition, educators are making increased use of voice assistants in the classroom environment. Voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana are giving students a chance to interact with educational material without the interaction of the teacher. These devices can be used at home or similar non-educational environment to provide conversational interaction with teaching material and additional educational assistance.
In the higher education environment, universities and colleges are giving students voice assistants instead of the traditionally printed student handbooks or hard-to-navigate websites for help with many campus-related informational needs. Arizona State University gives many of its incoming college freshmen an Amazon Alexa as a way to give them much more timely and focused information about their campus needs. These voice assistants can help answer common questions about campus needs as well as be customized for each student’s particular schedule and courses. This greatly reduces the need for internal support and decreases the cost of wasteful college handbook printing that can quickly get out-of-date. The use of voice assistant systems is very much exciting and interesting to most students and is expected to gain broader adoption in the coming years.
Assisting Educators with Organizational Tasks
In addition to education-oriented duties, teachers are also faced with having to manage the classroom environment and handle various organizational tasks. Educators are often required to handle many non-teaching responsibilities such as essay evaluation, grading of exams, filing necessary paperwork, HR and personnel-related issues, ordering and managing classroom materials, booking and managing field trips, responding to parents, assisting with conversation and second-language related issues, dealing with sick or otherwise absent students, and otherwise facilitating the learning environment. Educators often spend up to 50% of their time on non-teaching tasks. AI systems are particularly helpful at managing these back office and task-related activities. These AI systems can assist with grading activities and provide personalized responses to students. They can also handle routine and repetitive paperwork, deal with logistics related matters and other personnel issues. AI systems can even provide a first-line interaction with parents and guardians and give access to resources or provide feedback as needed for routine matters giving teachers more time to focus on things that require a personal touch with the students.
Education administrators are also reaping the benefits of AI with administrative tasks by using intelligent assistants to help with a range of administrative needs including budgeting, student applications and enrollment, course management, educator HR-related issues, purchasing and procurement activities, expense management and facilities management. Using intelligent AI-powered systems can greatly improve the efficiency of many educational institutions, lower their operating costs, give them greater visibility into income and expenses and improve the overall responsiveness of the educational institutions.
On the higher education side, college admissions officials are looking at using AI systems to improve the fairness and quality of the admissions process. AI systems that are trained in a way that eliminates much of the human bias are starting to be used to provide a credible and fair admission using a given criteria when compared to humans. Recent college admissions scandals have increased oversight and governance on admissions processes and the use of machine learning systems to provide a more systematic way of handling admissions is proving to be fruitful.
In the not too distant future, you can expect that AI and machine learning will be a core part of all educational experiences. AI is starting to show its benefits and application to a wide range of educational needs and the hope is that it will greatly improve overall learning outcomes for all.
Ronald Schmelzer, columnist, is senior analyst and founder of the Artificial Intelligence-focused analyst and advisory firm Cognilytica, and is also the host of the AI Today podcast, SXSW Innovation Awards Judge, founder and operator of TechBreakfast demo format events, and an expert in AI, Machine Learning, Enterprise Architecture, venture capital, startup and entrepreneurial ecosystems, and more. Prior to founding Cognilytica, Ron founded and ran ZapThink, an industry analyst firm focused on Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Cloud Computing, Web Services, XML, & Enterprise Architecture, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in August 2011.
Ron is a Parallel Entrepreneur, having started and sold a number of successful companies. The companies Ron has started and run have collectively employed hundreds of people, raised over $60M in Venture funding and exits in the millions. Ron was founder and chief organizer of TechBreakfast – the largest monthly morning tech meetup in the nation with over 50,000 members and 3000+ attendees at the monthly events across the US including Baltimore, DC, NY, Boston, Austin, Silicon Valley, Philadelphia, Raleigh and more.
He was also founder and CEO at Bizelo, a SaaS company focused on small business apps, and was Founder and CTO of ChannelWave, an enterprise software company which raised $60M+ in VC funding and subsequently acquired by Click Commerce, a publicly traded company. Ron founded and was CEO of VirtuMall and VirtuFlex from 1994-1998, and hired the CEO before it merged with ChannelWave.
Ron is a well-known expert in IT, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), XML, Web Services, and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). He is well regarded as a startup marketing & sales adviser, and is currently mentor & investor in the TechStars seed stage investment program, where he has been involved since 2009. In addition, he is a judge of SXSW Interactive Awards and served on standards bodies such as RosettaNet, UDDI, and ebXML.
Ron is the lead author of XML And Web Services Unleashed (SAMS 2002) and co-author of Service-Orient or Be Doomed (Wiley 2006) with Jason Bloomberg. Ron received a B.S. degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and MBA from Johns Hopkins University.