During World AI Week, the edtech industry and higher education leaders have an opportunity to look to the future of AI in education.

The essential human element of AI in education


During World AI Week, the edtech industry has an opportunity to look to the future of AI in education

World AI Week represents a unique moment to reflect on how AI has changed the way we work, live, and learn. Many brilliant minds and progressive companies are gathering for the World Summit AI (WSAI) in early October to discuss AI’s potential, and among the many topics of discussion, the role of AI in education will certainly be a hot topic.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has greatly shifted the landscape of technology in education. Overnight, learning worldwide became remote and distributed. What were once simple tasks like distributing and collecting homework or administering an in-class midterm became complex technological challenges, for which our collective tools fell short. However, we also made great strides in closing the gap, and along the way developed, improved, and scaled our technology and products in ways that we never thought possible. We’re proud of how our AI helped instructors by assisting in grouping similar answers to accelerate feedback, our state-of-the-art handwriting recognition that brings a new level of offline-to-online accessibility to our cutting-edge platform and our writing AI that helps students improve the way they write and use citations.

To continue to add a new perspective to this conversation, I asked a number of AI in education experts as well as two faculty members for their thoughts about AI’s role and potential in education.

Diving deeper into employing AI as an assisting technology, I first asked Rich Ross, PhD, who is an assistant professor at the University of Virginia for his thoughts. He told me what I’ve heard time and time again from faculty. “While many are developing ways to have AI replace interactions, I think that AI should be viewed through the lens of maximizing each interaction: students interacting with each other, and instructors interacting with students.” When I asked him about points of caution, he added, “To me, the biggest danger with AI and related tools is that we’ll reduce the quality and frequency of these interactions without reducing the tedium of many tasks that we should automate. Ideally, AI would automate most or all of the ‘low-impact’ activities and allow me to maximize time spent helping students understand and synthesize the concepts in my courses.”

To get a business leader’s perspective, one with a long list of credentials in AI, I asked Nathan Thompson, PhD, the CEO and Co-Founder at Assessment Systems to chime in. “The role of artificial intelligence in higher education is still not fully explored and realized,” he said. “Even though the pandemic certainly hastened the adoption of many technologies. The greatest opportunity is that it can help to bring quality education to more people, by improving relevant components such as placement, instruction, and assessment. For example, adaptive placement testing and adaptive learning could drastically reduce the time needed for a student to achieve some certain level of skills or educational degree.”

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