Artificial intelligence can be a daunting topic.
It conjures images of cold, calculating computers or dystopian futures where humans are subjugated by machines. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to associate with the joys of learning.
But AI isn’t the boogeyman it once was. AI technology is becoming increasingly important in all industries, all over the world.
So why should education be any different?
We look to technology to improve our lives, and AI is another aspect of that. It’s the development of computer systems that can perform tasks associated with human intelligence, such as decision-making, language translation, speech recognition, and visual perception.
Machines can be programmed to learn and perform tasks beyond what we usually expect of a computer. In an education scenario, that could mean anything from class scheduling, to automatic test grading, to virtual tutors.
Integrating AI into our lives isn’t about replacing people with heartless machinery; it’s about using technology to enhance how we go about our lives.
- Important applications of artificial intelligence in education
- The problems facing AI
- Final thoughts
Important applications of artificial intelligence in education
Now that we have a better understanding of AI, let’s explore some of the applications of artificial intelligence within the field of education.
Manual data processing takes time and manpower. It can be tedious and sometimes results in human error.
For educators, administrative work takes time away from their core purpose: teaching. The more paperwork there is to get done, the less time a teacher has to spend with their students, plan lessons, keep up-to-date with new teaching techniques, and perform other more hands-on tasks.
These are solutions to this out there, like automating the taking of student attendance, power dialing for making a lot of phone calls, and automatically generating reports using data gathered from the system.
With the help of AI, automating data processing gives teachers back their precious time.
A more personalized experience
Many teachers have busy classrooms, online classes, or lecture halls. It can be difficult to keep track of each individual student and their specific needs.
AI has the power to assess the needs of individuals on an ongoing basis, and create an action plan tailored to each student’s learning needs.
Is a particular student skilled in one area and struggling with another? AI can create course material, lesson plans, or tutoring programs to work with that student’s exact skill level. Does a student have certain educational needs, such as hearing issues? AI can record and transcribe lessons so that the student will always have accurate, comprehensive notes to work from.
Applications like this can eliminate the need for teachers to “teach to the middle”, a term used to describe how educators try to teach to a “middle ground” or a statistical average of student skill level.
Education outside of the classroom
Not all learning takes place in the classroom.
After-school studying, homework, online courses, or tutoring are important parts of furthering education.
More and more institutions are using technology to improve their capabilities. On a personal level, more and more individuals are choosing to do the same, using tools like online course platforms.
AI can replicate the presence of a teacher outside of school hours, using virtual reality, chatbots, or IVR systems (interactive voice response systems).
Things like virtual tutoring and real-time feedback could be available anywhere, at any time, for all students. This allows for more comprehensive online learning, after-school studying, and homeschooling.
Marking and grading
AI is already involved in this aspect of education. In fact, it has been widely used in plagiarism detection for many years, applied to books, essays, and research papers to great success. Some countries are even trialing AI’s use in test scoring, with more varying degrees of success.
As AI technology develops, though, it becomes more sophisticated. Consequently, as machine learning improves, so does a computer’s ability to assess complicated information.
One day, AI could read essays, understand the information, and give marks and personalized feedback. The technology is well on its way to successfully grading tests, papers, and classwork.
AI is also adept at gathering and assessing huge amounts of data, which could be used to analyze student success metrics. For example, let’s say that there is a specific test question many students are getting wrong. AI can gather this information quickly, assess it, and extrapolate possible reasons. Maybe the curriculum isn’t covering that particular subject comprehensively enough. Or perhaps the question is confusing, badly worded, or just too difficult.
Using AI in this way, curriculum weaknesses can be strengthened and tests can be redesigned.
AI content creation
Ever read an article online and thought, “did a robot write this?”.
You might’ve been correct.
AI is already capable of mimicking human writing styles–although it’s still a little clunky in that regard. But with enough machine learning, experts hope to see artificial intelligence writing prose indistinguishable from a human being.
We’re talking novels.
Or, in terms of education, lesson plans, course materials, and educational books.
The next schoolbook you buy on learning how to code integration API might just be written by a robot.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that accessibility isn’t universal.
However, it really should be.
There are many children and adults around the world who don’t have the best access to education, whether due to location, living situations, money, health issues, or special needs.
These past few years, as more and more learning moved online, plenty of students were left behind.
Technology sets out to bridge the gaps caused by education inequality. For students who don’t have access to classrooms or in-person teaching, tools such as VR and AR learning allow them to feel like they’re present in a learning environment. For students who have health issues or special needs, AI can help create a more personalized, individual learning experience, and aid students who need that little bit of extra help.
The problems facing AI
Like all emerging technologies, AI still has its share of issues, as we will see below.
Lack of human touch
A common concern raised when talking about AI is: will it replace people?
A robot teacher might delight kids for a while, but we don’t really want that reality.
Pioneers of AI technology assure us that AI isn’t meant to replace us, only to aid us, to help us solve problems the human mind can’t comprehend alone, or to automate the jobs we find tedious and give us back time for more meaningful productivity.
But many worry that increasingly advanced automation will make a lot of jobs redundant, and that in creating artificial intelligence, we make ourselves redundant. In an ideal world, people and machines would simply complement each other. It might take a while for the wider public to feel comfortable with such a notion, though.
Cost and technological requirements
AI technology is new and rapidly developing, and this means it comes at a cost.
The hardware required to power a lot of artificial intelligence is great; a big expense for any industry. Powerful processors are often scarce, and things like VR headsets are pricey, not to mention the environmental impact of running resource-heavy computers.
Until the equipment can be manufactured on a wider, cheaper, more energy-efficient scale, it might be a while before education can fully embrace all that AI has to offer.
Privacy and security
As with all new technology, AI opens up a whole new world of cybersecurity concerns.
AI allows for more sophisticated security attacks, machine learning can be poisoned by malicious data, or phishing scams can become more personalized.
As artificial intelligence evolves, the risk to our personal information also grows. As more and more of our data is collected and analyzed by machines, we run the risk of that data being used in more intrusive ways.
So the question becomes, how can we protect our privacy and security in a world where more and more data is absorbed and analyzed through machine learning?
AI has no moral code.
This is a concern for many people, so much so that a whole area of study has sprung up around how to ethically create artificial intelligence.
AI can only be as ethical as its developers. All human beings have biases, and without proper precautions, AI can suffer from algorithmic bias. This is when a machine presents outcomes that favor one party over another due to the way it has been coded or trained.
An example of this is web search results. Sometimes, search engines will return results that get better engagement at the expense of veracity or relevance. Social media will often push controversial content higher up a user’s feed because algorithms deduce that this content is the most interesting.
A recent test score debacle in the UK showed us the very real impact of algorithmic bias. Students were rejected from their chosen universities because of how a computer predicted their grades.
In the hands of unprepared developers, AI biases can lead to negative outcomes. In the hands of unscrupulous developers, the results could be even worse.
As developers work on these issues, one thing is for certain: AI is here to stay. The benefits of applying artificial intelligence to education far outweigh the risks, and the risks are mitigated every day by further research and development.
From virtual reality headsets, to computer-generated online tutoring, to conversation analytics with Dialpad or other providers of this service, the future of education looks set to eagerly embrace artificial intelligence.
And who knows–maybe we’ll have a robot teacher one day, after all.
About the Author
Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication and video conferencing platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content like this Dialpad video conferencing setup guide. Grace has written for domains such as GoCo and Soundstripe. Here is her LinkedIn.