Here are three pressing issues about AI in education. The first one is about leveraging AI to improve education. Leveraging of artificial intelligence in education will likely address quality, cost, access and equity issues of education. The process of adopting AI to supplement as well as complement educators may lead to the rise of a creative wave of destruction, unleashing disruption in the educational service industry—creating the second issue. The third one is about the market value of human capital or students’ knowledge and skills we build with the guidance of AI, as AI itself is after taking over that eligibility. If AI provides recommendations to meet student needs and helps teachers reflect, plan, and improve their practice, will AI not find it easy to automate the students’ abilities we build through the process? If yes, will AI in education nullify a significant purpose of education?
AI as teaching and learning assistant—addressing quality, equity, and access
United Nations and agencies like UNESCO have been looking into AI in schools as an enabling factor for addressing the sustainable development goal 4. Notably, use of AI in education supports core principles of inclusion and equity as its role in addressing current inequalities regarding access to knowledge appears paramount. Hence, under the “AI for all” agenda, UNESCO has developed artificial intelligence and education policy guidelines. Some of the roles of AI in education that this policy guideline recommends harnessing are (i) intelligent tutoring and learning assessment, (ii) AI-supported reading and learning, (iii) automated writing evaluation, (iv) AI-powered teaching assistants, and (v) AI-enabled collaborative learning. AI tools may emerge as (i) intelligent robots, (ii) teachable agents, (iii) education in virtual and augmented reality environments, (iv) learning network orchestrators, and (v) AI-human dual teacher model.
Some of the benefits of the use of AI in education are as follows:
- Personalization—although it’s impossible for a teacher to figure out how to meet the needs of every student, through real-time data analytics, AI in the classroom can adapt instruction based on students’ strengths and weaknesses.
- Tutoring and adaptive learning— through data and learning analytics, AI in teaching can adapt educational content to the learners’ individual-level progress; notably, AI chatbot could play meaningful tutoring role.
- Grading—not only multiple-choice questions, but AI in classrooms can also assess and grade abstract answers through a large language model.
- Feedback on course quality—through analysis of students’ responses, AI for educators can guide teachers to zoom in on areas where students are showing poor performances.
- Meaningful and immediate feedback to students—through data and learning analytics, it’s feasible for AI teacher to offer prompt and meaningful feedback.
- Access to quality education for all—through the internet and smartphones, AI online learning, through digital content and robot teachers, can make quality education accessible to all.
AI teacher to take over educators’ jobs—unleashing disruption in education
As explained above, AI teachers can start taking over the role of educators in delivering lectures, assessing feedback, adapting content, and grading performance. Hence, AI as a substitute for educators appears to be a possibility.
Well, AI may not completely replace teachers. Experts believe that the role of human teachers to nurture the hearts and minds of the next generation is indispensable. However, are prominent tests considering such roles of teachers in assessing students’ performance?
Governments, Foundations, and Corporations have channeled billions of dollars into AI research to address the shortage of quality teachers and rising costs. There has already been noticeable progress in developing human teacher-like AI applications. For example, ChatGPT can write essays, give feedback on computer code, and even write elegant poems.
Usually, a creative wave of destruction around a new technology core begins the journey in a humble form. The continued growth through a flow of cumulative ideas sometimes leads to taking over proven incumbent solutions. Hence, after crossing the tipping point, a wave succeeds in unleashing disruption, rendering matured products, skills, and jobs obsolete.
Understandably, AI teachers have significant limitations in blending technical competencies and socio-emotional skills. Hence, in the near term, AI for educators will play mostly complementary rather than substituting roles. However, such a complementary role will reduce teachers’ workload, resulting in decreasing new teacher requirements. Besides, increasing dependence on AI in teaching assistance and advancing AI capability may lead to reaching the tipping point. Hence, to retain the indispensable role of humans in education, the focus should be on empowering students to think, imagine, and get motivated through the human touch.
AI to render the jobs requiring AI-guided educational qualifications
We have become accustomed to using software applications to solve mathematical equations. Even when simulating complex problems to reach optimum design, like deciding about the locations of bulbs in a room for desired lighting conditions, we no longer manually solve ray tracing algorithms. Very low-cost software applications are also available to explain scientific principles or how to solve mathematical equations step-by-step. Although we have been using automated means of assessing multiple-choice questions or filling in the blanks, significant language model-based AI applications like ChatGPT can write and evaluate essay-type compositions. Hence, AI has been expanding the possibility of automating whatever we expect a teacher and graduate to perform.
A recent experiment about using ChatGPT to develop a business strategy using a blue ocean framework has reported promising results. GenAI would help automate the compilation of existing knowledge in filling templates within a strategic framework.
It does not take much logic to establish that teachers are pretty good at practicing whatever they teach students. Hence, often, top-performing graduates become teachers, notably at the university level. Therefore, if AI can take the role of teachers in developing human capital, why can AI not perform that role? Although there has been a limitation in making copies of good teachers, the cost of copying the high performing AI teacher would be zero. Hence, making copies of AI teachers to take over all the jobs that human graduates would take appears to be highly feasible. Thus, AI-powered education risks losing the very purpose of education—creating employable graduates.
AI in education risks rendering education obsolete
AI has the potential to unleash two disruptive forces on education. The first has been about gradually replacing human teachers’ roles with AI teacher. Of course, it has started the journey of playing a complementary role. The next one is about rendering obsolete the competence that education develops in graduates. Such a possibility of AI disruption in education may unleash catastrophic consequences on how the human race has been progressing. Hence, AI in education deserves attention to avoid directional failure of leveraging AI for burning issues of preparing next generation for jobs.
The question could be how to leverage AI in education and retain or improve the market value of human teachers and their graduates. So far, it indicates that AI’s capability is about compiling existing knowledge in a structured way and applying it. Consequently, the market value of the capability of capturing, organizing, and applying existing knowledge will decline. However, the market value of creating knowledge and leveraging it to produce ideas for the evolution of inventions and innovations will keep rising. Perhaps AI’s ability in this area will be limited. Hence, education should empower students to discover new knowledge and leverage it to drive the evolution of inventions and innovations. Such a change in direction would likely leverage AI in education instead of suffering from disruptive negative consequences.
Besides, sharpening Innate abilities has a strong role in improving human competence. So far, AI teachers in online classrooms are unable to address this vital issue.