Artificial Intelligence, Adapting to Student Needs

Education is the foundation that prepares people to pursue advancements in all areas. With increasing classroom size and tight budgets, education systems need to improve productivity and efficiency by leveraging advancements in technology. I think Artificial Intelligence (AI) can bring disruptive innovation in education to all segments: K-12, Higher Ed, and Corporate training.

Before jumping into what kind of innovation is possible, let’s try to understand what is Artificial Intelligence? In fact, it is a broader term used for many things. AI is the term applied when a machine mimics cognitive functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as learning and problem-solving.

You have probably seen sci-fi movies where robots and machines are taking over the world, destroying the human race, or driving it to extinction. Here the machine or robot is not AI, but what is driving them – like the piece of software that mimics the cognitive self-awareness and learning – is referred as AI.

AI can be categorized as three different levels.

Levels of Artificial Intelligence:

  • Simple AI – An uncomplicated rules engine
    • Specializes in one area such as Chess, Ticket prices, spam filters etc.
  • Strong or Human level AI – Complex rules engine with statistical analysis, critical thinking, and cognitive skills
    • Ability to reason, plan, solve, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, and learn quickly from experience
  • Super AI – Much smarter than best human brains
    • Wisdom, social skills and enormous knowledge and super skills in practically all areas

In today’s world, we are acting in the categories of “simple” and “strong” AI. If we take one area of focus, such as vehicle automation and combine that technology with AI in food and package delivery, and audio and visual recognition, we can combine these to create a more sophisticated AI.

AI in Education

With regards to AI, very little progress has been made in the education space when compared with other areas. For example, Amazon and  UPS using drones for delivery, Google self-driving cars etc.

Education should focus on making use of technology and building social and emotional intelligence.  Trusted and curated knowledge makes a learner attached to the teacher, which makes richer and fast learning. Also, an environment that provides collaboration with cultural and social interactions is more appropriate for learning.

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Education is a domain largely ruled by human-to-human interaction. AI capability of human-like attributes can provide significant uplift for education by filling current and future gaps.

There are mainly three types of players in Education Industry: Content, Platform, and Assessment Providers.

Here are some examples of AI applications in education:

  • Answer bots for helping students with context awareness
  • Grade essay questions with text responses. (No more manual grading, Yay for teachers!)
  • Virtual tutors providing a more personalized learning experience, one-on-one tutoring
  • Virtual reality for hands-on immersive learning
  • Gamification and simulation with richer analytics
  • Facilitate and moderate group discussions
  • Simulate complex environments for learning

The exciting part of AI is each interaction makes the AI stronger. If you were to apply the above technology to an education platform, the system would continuously learn and adapt to each student interaction. This would make each student interaction on the platform better and better with each use. Additionally, the platform would not only be learning from 1:1 interactions, but crowd sourcing information from every student interaction. Continuously making the platform stronger and stronger.

How can AI help with Education?

  • To develop reliable and valid indicators that will allow educators to track learner progress at individual levels. This will include difficult to measure characteristics such as creativity and curiosity.
  • To better understand the most effective teaching approaches and the learning contexts that allow the development of needed skills for next generation.
  • As new devices become available to capture biological, voice and visual tracking, AI will enable us to assess complex skill levels. As an example, tracking eye contact in group discussions to determine a learner’s focus.
  • Massive data collection and analytics helps with determining the effective teaching techniques at individual levels across a range of environments.
  • Providing just-in-time assessment through learning analytics and big data to identify changes in learner confidence and motivation in areas of improvement. This is the key information to provide timely interventions.
  • AI can provide tools to measure cognitive understanding by analyzing how a student arrived at an answer. This can be used to measure the areas of confusion a student may have.
  • Instead of measuring a student based on traditional assessments, AI can be used to build meaningful learning activities, games, collaboration projects and ongoing assessments of creativity and problem-solving skills.
  • Provide a learning companion as a partner in education. Research has shown a better success rate of learning in such a setting with reduced stress levels.
  • AI can help organize and synthesize content to support content delivery with deep learning.

What can we do or are doing at Cengage?

  • Providing richer analytics and smart content libraries
  • Smart Content with a personalized and adaptive learning experience
  • Intelligent tutoring systems with mastery learning using cognitive science
  • Speech interaction and assessment of collaborative world language forums
  • Auto grading of an essay, audio and other, traditionally manually graded activities
  • Your idea…

Cengage Learning is committed to positive changes in education by creating learning experiences that build confidence and momentum toward the future students want. Incorporating AI into education technology would absolutely be a huge benefit. We can accelerate ideas, learning tools, provide richer insights and analytics and so much more. Not only is AI interesting and fun for developers to create, but the benefit it can provide students and professors has huge potential!

 

3 thoughts on “Artificial Intelligence, Adapting to Student Needs

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  1. In my experience as an instructor using Cengage technologies, it’s clear that the sheer amount of data that is obtained from online platforms like MindTap would be well suited to adopting AI for getting students from point A to B in learning or mastery of content. The focus should be on assessment and understanding where exactly point A is for students on an individual level by using efficient testing that adapts as a students answers each question through the use of knowledge spaces, especially in Mathematics. As an AI asks more questions, a clearer assessment of a student’s current skill or knowledge set will come into focus. Automating this process so that AI is creating customized assignments for the students would be an amazing tool for teachers, who would then have time to focus on more creative tasks. The vast amount of data that Cengage could gather poses certain privacy risks but with the right focus on anonymizing student data, AI could learn the best pathway to point B, mastery of the content, by understanding how other students got there and suggesting the most effective sequence of presenting information to each individual. Breaking content down into structured knowledge spaces is a crucial problem to start with and can be used to atomize any set of complex information or tasks. I think digitization and delivery of these knowledge sets will be a significant application of AI in education.

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