Stephen Gill, Academic Head of the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, assesses the benefits and challenges of AI use in education.
The emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning is transforming educational tools and institutions and shaping the future of education. From grading tasks to detecting plagiarism and learning support, there are several applications for AI in education. The global education technology market is projected to continue its growth trajectory, and AI is expected to play a significant role in driving this growth. There is no doubt that the role of educators is indispensable. However, there will be significant changes to teaching roles and educational practices. Education has already started implementing AI, mainly through tools that aid skill development and testing. As AI-based educational solutions mature, the expectation is that AI can bridge gaps in learning and teaching, enabling schools and teachers to achieve more than ever before.
By improving efficiency, personalisation, and simplifying administrative tasks, AI can allow teachers to dedicate their time and skills to uniquely human capabilities, such as understanding and adaptability. Given that today’s students will work in a future dominated by AI, it is crucial for educational institutions to incorporate this technology into their curricula and processes. However, with AI posing challenges such as ethical and privacy considerations, the education sector should approach this development responsibly.
By automating administrative tasks, AI can help educators manage large data sets to process student applications and find patterns in student performance. This includes grading assignments, providing feedback on student work, or even detecting plagiarism. Machine learning algorithms and natural language processing can help teachers quickly identify patterns in student performance. Although machines can already grade multiple-choice tests, it is expected that they will be able to assess written responses as well in the near future. As AI assists in automating admin tasks, it will allow educators more time to spend with each student, which could reflect positively on the quality of learning.
Although adjusting learning based on an individual student’s needs has been a priority for educators for years, AI will allow an advanced level of differentiation that cannot be attained in large classrooms. AI can create adaptive learning tools that use ML algorithms to analyse student performance and adapt activities accordingly. With heightened awareness about the importance of personalised learning to meet students’ individual needs, this will be a valuable tool to help tailor the level of difficulty and even the pace of instruction to meet each student’s needs. Tailored learning could prove especially valuable for students with special needs or learning difficulties as it can help them learn at their pace using new learning models tailored to their needs.
Universal access for all students
AI-powered online learning platforms can provide students with access to high-quality educational resources from anywhere, anytime. This can be particularly useful for students who live in rural or remote areas, where access to educational resources may be limited. For example, AI tools can facilitate global access to education for individuals with language barriers. An instance of this is the Presentation Translator, a complimentary add-on for PowerPoint that produces live subtitles of the teacher’s speech. This technology enables students who face challenges such as illness or lack of access to a specific subject in their local school to participate remotely. AI can also aid in the elimination of barriers between schools and traditional grade levels.
Despite the benefits of AI, the adoption of the technology in the education sector should be approached with care and responsibility. AI raises ethical questions about the role of technology in education, such as who should be responsible for decision-making and how to ensure that AI is used in the best interests of students. Additionally, AI may face resistance from faculty and staff who are not familiar with the technology or who are concerned about its impact on their roles and responsibilities. This will necessitate investment in training the staff and faculty about the use of AI in education and how it will impact their roles and responsibilities. Finally, AI systems may reflect the biases and prejudices of their creators, or the data used to train them. This can lead to unfair treatment of certain groups of students, perpetuating existing inequalities.
By making learning more accessible and personalised, AI can revolutionise education and increase its accessibility to students around the world. Currently, numerous AI applications are being developed for education, such as AI mentors for learners, smart content development, and virtual global conferences that offer a new approach to professional development for educators. Although education may be slower to adopt artificial intelligence and machine learning, changes are already underway and will persist.