Artificial Intelligence in Education

The potential of using artificial intelligence in education to enhance learning, assist teachers and fuel more effective individualised learning is exciting, but also a bit daunting. To even have an intelligent conversation about AI in education, one must first push past imaginary science-fiction scenarios of computers and robots teaching our children, replacing teachers and reducing the human element from what is a fundamentally human activity.One of the leading writers on the benefits of artificial intelligence in education, Matthew Lynch (“My Vision for the Future of Artificial Intelligence in Education”), is careful to explore the potential pitfalls along with the benefits, writing that “the use of AI in education is valuable in some ways, but we must be hyper-vigilant in monitoring its development and its overall role in our world.”The ethical considerations are profound, as they are when it comes to using artificial intelligence in any type of setting. AI lacks a so-called “moral compass.” So, by one way of looking at it, AI programming is “as ethical as its developer,” according to Towards Data Science, in an article about AI ethics that prescribes two important recommendations moving forward:

  1. We need to have ethics built into the idea of why a certain piece of technology, equipped with AI, is being developed.
  2. We need to monitor/check/police the outcomes of that specific piece of technology in order to fully understand its behaviour and make sure that it’s not violating our (human) moral compass.

There is robust debate throughout the technology community and beyond about ethics in artificial intelligence and most university degree programs are integrating courses on AI ethics into their curriculum. There, now that we have identified the ethical elephant in the room, let’s talk about the exciting possibilities of AI in education.

The Potential Benefits of AI in Education

Personalization: “It can be overwhelmingly difficult for one teacher to figure out how to meet the needs of every student in his/her classroom. … AI systems easily adapt to each student’s individual learning needs and can target instruction based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Tutoring: AI systems can “gauge a student’s learning style and pre-existing knowledge to deliver customized support and instruction.

Grading: Sure, AI can help grade exams using an answer key; but it can also “compile data about how students performed and even grade more abstract assessments such as essays.

Feedback on course quality: For example, if many students are answering a question incorrectly, “AI can zero in on the specific information or concepts that students are missing, so educators can deliver targeted improvements in materials and methods.

Meaningful and immediate feedback to students: Some students may be shy about taking risks or receiving critical feedback in the classroom, but “with AI, students can feel comfortable to make the mistakes necessary for learning and receive the feedback they need for improvement.”Much of the potential envisioned for AI in education centers on reducing time spent by teachers on tedious tasks to free up time for more meaningful ones.

Examples of AI in Education

Adaptive Learning: “Used to teach students basic and advanced skills by assessing their present skill level and creating a guided instructional experience that helps them become proficient.

Assistive Technology: AI can help special needs students access a more equitable education, for example by “reading passages to a visually impaired student.

Early Childhood Education: “AI is currently being used to power interactive games that teach children basic academic skills and more.

Data and Learning Analytics: “AI is currently being used by teachers and education administrators to analyze and interpret data,” enabling them to make better-informed decisions.

Scheduling: Helping administrators to schedule courses and individuals to manage their daily, weekly, monthly or yearly schedules.

Facilities Management: AI is effective at “monitoring the status of power, Wi-Fi and water services; alerting the facilities management workers when problems arise.

Overall School Management: AI is currently being used to manage entire schools, powering student records systems, transportation, IT, maintenance, scheduling, budgeting, etc.

Writing: Not only does Lynch assert that AI is already at work helping students improve their writing skills.

  • Professional Development
  • Transportation
  • Maintenance
  • Finance
  • Cybersecurity
  • Safety and Security

Examples of how artificial intelligence is currently being used in higher education include:

  • Plagiarism Detection
  • Exam Integrity
  • Chatbots for Enrollment and Retention
  • Learning Management Systems
  • Transcription of Faculty Lectures
  • Enhanced Online Discussion Boards
  • Analyzing Student Success Metrics
  • Academic Research
  • Connected Campuses

The Future of AI in Education

Though there continues to be widespread debate over the pros and cons of deploying AI technology in the field of education, including the concerns about depersonalise and the ethical considerations cited above, there is an emerging consensus that the extraordinary range of current and future benefits will carry the day. 

This report on Artificial Intelligence in Education was developed by the University of San Diego’s innovative, online Master of Science in Applied Artificial Intelligence program, an AI industry thought leader and education partner.