A frog being dissected using technology Photo by SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

AI, ML to extend ed-tech beyond the classroom

  • As a sector, education is a digital laggard, presenting a serious challenge given the scale of what’s to come
  • The pandemic has fueled adoption of digital technologies like AI in education
  • Yet education is still grossly under-digitized, with less than 4% of global expenditure on tech

The pandemic has made educational organizations realize the importance of modernizing learning programs to meet the social distancing demands of our post-pandemic society. Artificial intelligence (AI) remains the most prospective technology niche for education investment, not just for universities but also for tertiary schools and online learning platforms. Reports suggest that in a post-Covid world, the classroom is no longer contained within four walls, and ed-tech will be the key to expanding beyond them.

AI subfields including natural language processing (NPL), machine learning (ML) algorithms, plus speech and image recognition help to improve the learning process by increasing student engagement, providing personalized programs, and supporting students with relevant information 24/7. At the same time, AI-based software for automated grading and performance assessments helps teachers to save time on routine tasks. 

The transition to this learning environment has also revealed new insights into the state of technology in education. The “education system is evolving at an unprecedented rate, and making effective ed-tech investments will be critical in the year ahead,” according to a recent report.

Last year alone, the ed-tech market raked in more than US$10 billion in venture capital investment worldwide. Statistics however suggest that education is still grossly under-digitized, with less than 4% of global education budgets spent on tech, presenting a serious challenge when education institutes need to scale up. Future skills training and the knowledge-based economy will need to undergo massive digital transformation in the coming years, and while accelerated as a result of Covid-19, there is still a-ways to go.

How to use AI in education

Experts reckon educational institutions should make attempts to unlock the value trapped in vast volumes of data. Like using a huge data bank enabled with AI to create customized assessments for students across subjects and grades, with results accessible with equal ease across devices like a smartphone or a laptop.

AI can further be leveraged here to generate specific insightful reports, focusing on the strengths and areas of improvement for different students, as a fair assessment should evaluate both. While current assessment models focus on overall dexterity, AI can create a fairer and unbiased system to assess students.

Another way AI and ML can further advance the ed-tech sector is by letting it sift through cluttered content. Furthermore, ed-tech players can provide additional support for students with AI tutors. In fact tutoring programs based on artificial intelligence already exist and can help students through basic mathematics, writing, and other subjects. While they might not be ideal for high-function thinking and creativity, they certainly help in teaching students the fundamentals. 

Customizing education to meet the needs of different students with varied aptitudes is a mammoth task, but ed-tech can overcome this bottleneck efficiently with the help of AI, which can help teachers craft courses that are customized to students’ needs, as well as provide feedback to both about the effectiveness of the course as a whole. AI conversational tools — or chatbots — also can be leveraged to improve student engagement in their overall learning process. There are several ways in which chatbots can be used, including teaching a lesson through a series of messages, integrating it in the feedback loop, and more.