In all sectors, artificial intelligence is proving its potential to inspire, innovate and overcome multiple challenges. AI is making a significant impact in the education sector. Not only is it streamlining processes and improving efficiency in administration, but it’s also revolutionizing teaching, student learning, and assessment practices.
According to Global Market Insights, the global market of AI in education was worth over $4 billion in 2022 and is set to grow 10% yearly until at least 2032. There are well-established AI learning tools such as Duolingo and Quizlet and powerful but controversial newcomers such as ChatGPT, which can generate unique, pass-worthy text answers to college-level assessments.
AI is not without controversy, however. Right now, the future of AI in education is hotly debated with a mix of much excitement and a little trepidation. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of AI use cases in education, its benefits, its challenges and limitations, and how this technology may continue to grow in use and ability.
How is Artificial Intelligence Used in Education?
The use of artificial intelligence seeps through every level of education, with the youngest learners exploring their first letters and numbers with AI-driven learning tools, all the way up to university students using machine-learning-driven programs like Grammarly to improve their academic writing.
Adaptive learning platforms and virtual learning environments are among the most popular uses of AI in schools. These Edtech platforms process a huge amount of data on progress, learning style, and interests that teachers can channel into creating personalized learning pathways, automated learning recommendations, and individualized instruction at scale.
Examples include adaptive software with AI components that can adjust the level of difficulty for students. For example, Age of Learning produces personalized learning paths for young students in foundational literacy and mathematics. Blippar is also popular. It brings subjects like geography and the sciences to life with virtual learning environments.
In Higher Education
While these virtual learning environments are operational in some elementary and high schools, universities, and colleges have been many of the AI pioneers firmly embedding AI technologies into their learning experiences. AI teaching assistants and librarians are commonplace, plus widely-used technology like Turnitin can provide academic writing support and assessment of college papers.
For Language Learning
Language learners can benefit from speech recognition software in programs such as Duolingo and Blue Canoe that provide instant feedback on pronunciation and conversation skills, much like having a one-to-one teacher in the room. Additionally, teachers can use AI tools like multilingual text-to-speech synthesis to generate audio for language listening exercises.
Artificial intelligence isn’t just benefiting students either. Teachers and educators are using AI to enhance the education they provide to their students. AI content reduces some of the burdens of planning lessons and producing resources while providing engaging, flexible content to suit all learners.
In addition, software like Mobius can semi-automate marking and assessment. The development of vision-based AI means that teachers can upload photos of handwritten work for AI to grade. Plus, AI’s natural language processing capabilities mean that some testing companies are now using it to grade essays.
What Are the Benefits of Artificial Intelligence in Education?
One of the key benefits of artificial intelligence in all fields is its ability to automate routine tasks, freeing humans from repetitive, tedious, or complex processes. This benefit is no less true in education, where AI can complete assessments on behalf of teachers, provide instant feedback to students, and detect plagiarism.
Saving time is one of its key benefits, along with better accessibility and educational enrichment.
Improving accessibility is also a benefit AI can offer to many students. Text-to-speech and speech recognition technologies can both enable many people to access educational opportunities that may have been previously closed to those with visual impairments or limited mobility.
Through adaptive content, teachers can produce lessons that better suit students with dyslexia or dyscalculia.
Elevated Teaching and Learning
There’s a lot of excitement about cutting-edge generative AI technologies like ChatGPT and image-generator Dolly and their potential to enrich education for the benefit of students. ChatGPT can generate one accurate, detailed, and precisely matched answer to any query. For students, this is more efficient than multiple search engine results to filter through.
Similarly, gamified and AI-driven personalized learning programs enhance learning in class and at home. Regular assessment is a natural feature of these programs. Still, unlike pen and paper tests, there is little stress for students.
Perhaps the greatest potential of AI is in its ability to improve teaching. Because AI can save teachers time on menial tasks, they have more time for their students. Lessons are adapted to suit each student on most AI platforms so students can progress faster and never over or under-challenged.
There’s also increasing evidence that they propel faster learning of skills like letter recognition for early reading and times tables.
What Are the Challenges and Limitations of Artificial Intelligence in Education?
While the benefits of AI are multiple, so are its associated challenges.
One risk is the possibility that the use of AI might further widen technological inequities between international populations, communities, and individuals. Unequal access to AI could risk consolidation of economic status and prevent growth opportunities. Ensuring affordability and accessibility for all will be crucial.
Bias is a concern of UNESCO. As a result, they worked collectively with international policymakers to produce the Beijing Consensus on Artificial Intelligence and Education. This policy seeks to guide the introduction of AI into education with ethical, transparent, and fair-for-all principles that prevent bias and discrimination against populations and individuals.
Security and Surveillance
Given the amount of personal data AI can capture, some people are concerned that AI providers violate privacy or security through the technology. While terms and conditions of use must be agreed upon when using new software, many people agree without fully understanding how companies might use their data.
Others are concerned that they will be coerced to accept terms and conditions they would not want to agree to participate in their education. Overcoming public fears over how people will use AI is a significant challenge, particularly regarding protecting children in education.
AI is an emerging technology which means it still has many limitations. ChatGPT, for instance, can’t personalize its answers to consider a person’s reading ability, background knowledge, or culture. In that sense, it’s still a rudimentary tool in education.
As discussed, AI can provide assessments of student progress. However, there is a consensus that this ability still needs to be more reliable and comprehensive enough to be relied upon and used in conjunction with teacher-led assessment.
For instance, assessing reading skills is particularly problematic when testing reading comprehension quickly and efficiently. However, it’s relatively straightforward for AI to assess decoding abilities.
There is also the issue of human capabilities. Employees in education must update their skills to keep pace with this technology and know how to use it to its full potential. Educational institutions will need to invest in their workforce and AI technology.
Finally, there is the possibility that users may find unethical ways to exploit the technology. ChatGPT’s ability to produce credible college-level written responses to user queries has led universities to update their guidance on cheating for fear that students may try to pass ChatGPT’s or other AI chatbots’ answers off as their own work in assessments.
Many universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have gone as far as to ban the use of the ChatGPT.
Examples of Artificial Intelligence in Education: Tools for the Classroom
AI in learning platforms is becoming commonplace. However, more AI tools can be used in schools and universities, as shown in these examples.
Mainstay is an AI-powered tool that connects students with resources that facilitate their education. The tool uses behavioral intelligence alongside machine-learned cultural context and sensitivity levels to escalate students’ needs to human staff when needed.
Thinkster Math is an online math tutoring app that combines AI assessment with real-life tutoring. AI is used to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses and create a unique curriculum for an experienced teacher.
Play.ht is an AI voice generator for educators. It creates natural-sounding voices using text-to-speech technology. These can be used as a voiceover for educational videos, other classroom resources, and e-learning material. Play.ht offers more than 800 unique voices with a variety of accents and more than 130 languages.
The Future of AI in Education
AI is embedded into many aspects of education and will undoubtedly be a part of teaching and learning in the future. Over 99% of US higher education institutes describe it as instrumental to their future competitiveness, according to Microsoft research.
While challenges are still ahead, AI-powered education offers exciting opportunities for efficient and effective teaching and learning. Students, parents, and teachers largely agree they will benefit from the projected growth of AI, and many believe the best is yet to come.
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