Using Artificial Intelligence for Real Education Changes

Over the past few years, we’ve seen artificial intelligence start to creep into consumer technology. Products like Google Now, Siri, and Facebook M aim to make our lives easier by fulfilling simple tasks. Tech giants are putting huge sums of money into the development of smarter AI, and the potential benefits are massive.

As AI software becomes more powerful, other industries beyond technology are looking at it as a potential game-changer. Many large education companies are investing in creating software with varying degrees of Artificial Intelligence baked in.

Even though there has been some progress on getting current tech into schools, many aren’t satisfied. They criticize colleges for putting 21st century technology into a classroom designed for the 20th century. AI certainly won’t be the first attempt at revolutionizing the classroom; other once-promising projects like MOOCs and flipped classrooms have seen mixed results at best and have gained little traction since their introduction. Is AI really the next big thing in education?

Personalized Learning

AI has already found its way into some classrooms around the US in the form of “personalized learning”. This allows for students to learn at their own pace by using content specifically tailored for their student profile. For example, if a student is struggling with a particular concept, the software can recognize her shortcoming and provide additional support if needed. In theory, personalized learning ensures that students who struggle with a particular subject can master it before moving on, instead of being left behind.

Some personalized learning software will even try to detect what kind of learner the student is and customize learning material for their strengths. Personalized learning shines because it allows the type of individual attention that simply isn’t feasible when you have one teacher in front of a large group of students.

We’re still in the nascent stages of this process, but early adopters of personalized learning are seeing promising results. One district in South Carolina started using personalized learning for their middle school students and saw an overall increase in the number of students meeting state growth targets. There are still concerns about the software itself and the costs associated with it, but if personalized learning keeps improving, evolving, and showing promising results, it could make its way into more classrooms.

For higher education institutions, we could see personalized learning manifest itself in smarter textbooks. Even industry giants like McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin are investing in personalized learning technology, even if it could upend their traditional textbook model altogether. This is great news for college students, who have seen textbook costs continue to rise over the past few years. Instead of a $125 textbook, professors could just have students purchase cloud-based software for $25/year.

AI as an Assistant

Any time AI is put into a teaching role, there’s always the question of whether or not it will eventually replace humans. Many of the big players in personalized learning insist that their software isn’t intended to replace a traditional teacher. Instead, they argue, it allows teachers to focus more on higher level tasks and less on administrative tasks.

Oddly enough, this echoes the sentiment of up-and-coming virtual assistants like Facebook M, designed for consumer use. Facebook M is a virtual assistant based inside a messenger app that can help you with almost anything. All you have to do is ask.

This type of AI has to be able to not only decipher what it’s being asked to do, but also access the right data to complete the task at hand. But once it’s smart enough, it has thousands of uses.

As AI technology gets even smarter, virtual assistants will be able to automate and enrich more aspects of our lives. For professors, administrative tasks such as inputting grades and communicating with the class can easily be solved by today’s AI technology, without threatening the professor’s job.

For students, a virtual assistant powered by AI could push them to seek the academic assistance they need, help schedule appointments, and prepare for tests.

As Upswing grows from an online tutoring marketplace to a learning platform, we’re looking for new ways to help both students and professors in their day-to-day lives. This is why we’re working hard on an innovative new project, ANA (Academic Notification Assistant). With ANA, we aim to help both professors and students by automating common tasks that would normally take hours.

ANA is currently in beta, and open only to professors at our partner schools. If you’re interested in learning more about the project, email me at justin@upswing.io.


Originally published on Upswing’s blog. To learn more about how Upswing can make an impact at your school, send us an email at speak@upswing.io

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