#AI, #artificial intelligence, #e-learning, #edtech, #education
2 May 2021
Julianna Sykutera

How AI is transforming eLearning in 2021: Examples of AI in Education

We know that not everyone learns in the same way, and there is not a single correct way of learning. However, the standard educational system is quite rigid in this regard, most often unimaginative and unaccommodating to different learning capabilities. This has enormous consequences for children who are not able to follow or adjust to the typical teaching methods, resulting in poorer academic performance and loss of confidence. This in turn can have huge repercussions on the student’s subsequent academic, professional, and personal life.

AI – or “Artificial Intelligence” – has transformed every single industry and technology, including education and learning. Today – using AI in education – it’s possible for students to choose how they want to learn. Even more critical, it’s possible for AI tools to analyze a student’s performance and habits based on which they can understand students’ learning needs and preferences. This allows for the creation of learning environments with a high degree of personalization. 

But how utilized is this power that AI possesses? What is the current state-of-art in edtech AI?

Advantages of AI in Education

Educational AI tools have become indispensable, as they are increasingly being used in the classroom, at home, or in the office. Let’s check out some of the characteristics which make AI in education so relevant.

Accessibility

Students are instantly connected to learning materials, courses, even teachers, from anywhere and at any time. Students can choose their own study times, and set their own pace. Teachers can be replaced by digital AI assistants, who are available 24/7 for clearing students’ doubts. This accessibility also makes it easier for working people to pursue further education, for whom flexibility is integral. Another group of people who can benefit immensely from unlimited accessibility are disabled persons. 

Personalization

As mentioned before, the traditional classroom doesn’t work for everyone. The teacher often doesn’t have time to give vital feedback to everyone or to work individually with all students to identify their weak spots. This can lead to frustration in underperforming students, teachers, and parents alike – but more often than not, it is not the student’s fault. For example, learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD, or dyscalculia are incredibly common and unfortunately often un-diagnosed. By analyzing student’s performances, AI can help in recognizing these disabilities sooner, and assist in creating personalized study plans and learning methods that are easier and more suitable for those students.  

Engagement

Personalized AI, while simplifying the learning process and making it more interesting and interactable (for example, through visual or auditory learning methods), naturally also leads to higher engagement by the students. One-on-one student-AI interactions can also be much easier for students who don’t feel as confident or experience anxiety in the classroom. Such students would probably feel much more comfortable voicing their quandaries in a pressure-free environment, thus encouraging more engagement. 

Edtech AI in 2021

How can AI be used in education? The possibilities are endless, but in reality, we’ve barely scratched the surface. There is a big gap between what can be done with AI, and what we are currently able to do. Let’s explore some examples of how AI is currently being used in education.

Online Courses

We’re all familiar with the eLearning game-changers – online course giants like Udemy, Coursera, Udacity, and others. These eLearning platforms have also started utilizing AI to help connect students with the right courses for them, based on data like the student’s current and past education, learning and topic preferences, future plans, etc. 

Administration Automation

In the classroom, there are AI tools that help teachers by grading tests, and checking homework and essays, thereby freeing up teachers to interact more with the students. Outside of the classroom, AI is tasked with other administrative assignments such as: filling out paperwork, collecting and maintaining student information, noting attendance, managing teacher materials, and many more such tedious tasks, saving time and money for the educational institutions.

Speech Recognition Software

These types of software have enhanced word recognition and spelling abilities, especially beneficial for students who struggle with writing or have limited mobility/visual impairment. Teachers also gain precious time, being able to dictate lessons for later use. 

Smart Content

The term refers to different types of digital content, such as textbooks or video lectures. AI software can create customized learning interfaces and content based on a specific student’s needs, while also making it easier for students by appropriately sectioning the content, highlighting key points, creating audio and video content, and more. These tools make things easier for the teachers as well, allowing them to sort all required content in one place, facilitating access and content updates.

Personalized Education

The goal is to create individual study programs using AI and machine learning as per the specific needs of each student. By identifying weak points and employing alternative methods of instruction, we should see an overall improvement in student performance. Carnegie Learning is one such popular platform that uses AI to assess student’s habits and generates customized feedback to students and teachers, based on which the study plan can be adjusted.

The Future of AI in Education

While technology is continuously developing, we can expect incremental improvements to all areas mentioned throughout this post. However, this does not mean that AI is set to completely remove the teacher from the picture, at least not anywhere in the near future. For the time being AI tools are just that – tools. How they are implemented matters. In that sense, teachers should be trained on how to apply AI educational tools in a meaningful pedagogical manner. On the other hand, a teacher’s experience of working with students is irreplaceable, thus teacher feedback is also important for designing the AI tools. 

The biggest challenge for AI in Education will be strengthening the cooperation between teacher and machine, and then taking it to a global level. Right now, a small number of students have the privilege to be assisted by AI in their academic lives, or it is not to any consequential extent. The goal is to give students everywhere the chance for quality education taking into account their individuality, which is what AI aims for.

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