Artificial Intelligence has gone from being the stuff of science fiction to a commonplace of everyday life. We are surrounded by intelligent devices and sometimes cease to notice them at all. But just because AI has wormed its way into every aspect of our lives, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the way it is transforming the education industry. AI is changing education for the better both for students and for those who provide services for students. Today, students no longer need to be physically present in the classroom in order to benefit from the brave new world of education. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that Artificial Intelligence if making the world of education faster and more efficient.
- Automated grading. For decades, computers have been used to grade multiple-choice questions answered with number two pencils on bubble sheets. Optical scanning allows for an accurate assessment of grades. However, computers aren’t good at grading essays and other subjective responses. However, teachers and professors agree that grading essay assignments has become overwhelming, and it is a challenge for instructors to balance the requirements of grading with the time needed to do the more important work of teaching. In the future, AI will improve to the point that it can grade essays and offer constructive feedback on them. Since many students use professional academic writing services to write essays and research papers for them, we may be facing the day that students order essays online for computers to grade, meaning that neither the student nor the professor will actually be involved in the essays for a course!
- Adapted learning. Software has helped students to achieve better results in education, but until recently, software wasn’t fully adaptable to individual students’ needs. Students all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and with adapted learning, predictive AI will be able to analyze student performance and determine the best way to give students the information and approach they need to best understand the material. AI will transform educational software by making it customizable and allowing it to both react to student performance and predict what students will need at each stage of their educational journey.
- Identifying improvements in course design. Human instructors may not have the same data-driven understanding of each course that a computer can. AI will examine courses from top to bottom and identify areas for improvement. For example, some current software can monitor quiz and test results and identify outlying questions where too many students are getting an answer wrong. The software will then alert the instructor who can alter the course content to discuss the missed question’s content more clearly. In the future, AI can also monitor student performance to predict areas where students are likely to get questions wrong, and it will provide prompts and hints to help students. Similarly, AI can provide instant feedback on tests without the need to wait for instructors to grade them.
- Tutoring students who need more help. Right now, professional writing services, TA’s, and tutors fill the gap between what students know and what instructors need them to know. This system is haphazard and doesn’t always identify exactly what a student needs help with. But in the future, AI tutors may be able to offer personalized, real-time assistance on all manner of educational tasks, including essay writing. Many older readers will remember “Clippy,” the Microsoft Office assistant who offered advice as users attempted to write documents. AI tutors will be much more sophisticated—and offer better advice—but might be similar in some regards to a twenty-first-century version of Clippy.
- Altering how we find and use information. AI already stands behind many of the information-seeking activities we do every day, particularly search engine searches and online shopping recommendations. But as this technology filters into the education field, it may create some ethical dilemmas. When AI decides which information we encounter in a search and potentially even controls what subjects we are exposed to and how we learn about them, is there a risk that the programs might unintentionally limit education by biasing results in ways we have yet to anticipate?
AI in the education industry is likely to be a major boon in terms of efficiency and speed, but this will come with a cost. It is up to students and educators to make sure that we don’t outsource the purpose of education and turn learning into another algorithmic activity in which input = output.