Getting Ready For The Unknown But Critical Effect Of AI In Online Learning

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Getting Ready For The Unknown But Critical Effect Of AI In Online Learning
“Into the Deep” by Andreas Jalsøe is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Getting Smart, the book turned education and “learning design” consulting company, recently released a report on the influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education and professional development. The report, titled “Ask About AI: The Future of Work and Learning,” is part of a campaign to have a broader and more inclusive discussion on the matter.

AI, as the report indicates, is already influencing classrooms and learning experiences everywhere. But its influence in the structures and policymaking of entire education systems has just begun. As it stands today, the new developments are coming from four disciplines: Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Big Data, and AI. The main attribute of each is the creation of new tools and information whose outcomes were not previously thought of or “hard-coded.” While there is often a goal in the making of a program or a tool from any of these four areas, the strategies and learning paths the system takes cannot be predicted. Often, they also cannot be understood.

There are many examples of the influence of AI across businesses, from recommendation engines to autonomous cars, but its role in education to date is less practical and impressive. The learning platforms deemed “transformational” by the report, Coursera, edX, Skillshare, and Udemy, apply some algorithmic recommendation of subjects and courses, a practice more apt to be classified as marketing than education.

When asked about future solutions AI can bring to platforms, experts in the report mention:

  • Customization and personalization
  • Tracking, diagnostics, and performance forecasting
  • Automation of teacher and student routine work
  • AI-based tutoring

Perhaps the best contribution of AI to education, the report concludes, is a change in the “innovation mindsets” of people and organizations, where an increased focus on “Competency-based systems” is likely. While we can expect the presence of AI to be an overall positive for all in the long term, a transition period is seemingly overdue, where the level of positive impact can be dampened by furthering prevailing social and geographical disparities. “Massive dislocations” and “widening income gaps” are challenges whose effects could come close to “existential threats.”

Download the “Ask About AI: The Future of Work and Learning” report here (PDF).


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