Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken significant strides in recent years, best illustrated by Generative (Gen) AI like ChatGPT storming onto the scene. It’s clear that there is a monumental shift toward Gen AI, and automation tools like ChatGPT and BARD are potentially transforming various industries through innovation possibilities.
One of the sectors in a position to be transformed by generative AI is education. From the student-facing to back-office, and everything in between, it is clear that the learning space will soon immerse itself in technology-heavy digital transformation practices.
What Role Can Generative AI Play In Education?
How can generative AI be implemented into learning and education?
Potential applications of generative AI are seemingly unending. Personalised learning content is one standout example that’s creating a buzz.
According to experts, digging deeper into a subject using Gen AI, provides more opportunities for class innovation, with educators able to develop more interactive experiences and engaging lessons to ensure learning is more effectively internalised in student.
Here’s a list of Gen AI use case examples:
● Creating study plans tailored to individual students' needs according to their strengths, weaknesses, and overall performance.
● Developing questions and problems for students to answer and solve based on their current achievement and comprehension levels.
● Producing real-time assessments and feedback to help teachers quickly flag student weaknesses and provide additional support.
● Generating interactive and engaging games, simulations, and similar learning activities to aid students in grasping sophisticated concepts
The digital publishing education sector stands to experience cost-reduction benefits since Gen AI produces text, images, audio, video, and other learning content. Moreover, Gen AI has the potential to leverage personalised learning, providing step-by-step problem-solving feedback and intellectual hints for students. If this new technology is introduced at a strategic level in a college, such use of Gen AI tools could help mitigate teacher-related challenges to harness and drive up learners’ skill development and subject-matter understanding.
What are Gen AI’s Limitations?
Whilst benefits could be widespread with Gen AI being implemented into the educational sector, one must not just view this technology through rose-coloured specs!
AI can be Influenced by Data-Induced Biase
Research has shown that Gen AI programmes can reinforce negative stereotypes in the classroom. It is clear that educational content has the potential to be impacted by biases triggered by algorithms. It is important to appreciate Gen AI algorithms can only be as unbiased as the data by which they’ve been trained on. Rubbish in, rubbish out. Therefore, you have to understand where the origins of the data comes from. Factors such as socioeconomic status, race, and gender must weigh into incorporating and using Gen AI systems designs and programming. Inclusivity and equity must be prioritised when using these tools in a learning environment or curriculum. Such considerations must be made to avoid any dilution of students’ educational experiences.
AI is No Substitute for the Human Touch
A limitation of Gen AI is that human touch, as people will always naturally possess more originality, ingenuity, and creativity. These Gen AI tools are following a path of creativity and originality predetermined by their data-sets and training models. Therefore, true, leftfield creativity will be somewhat of a struggle for the current brand of Gen AI. That’s not to say in the future, this may change, but for the moment, whilst Gen AI tools are great to provide a scaffold of support and development for educators, they lack the nuances and skilled touch of experienced insights from true professionals of that subject matter being taught.
Limit Students Use of Gen AI is Critical
There’s a reason many teachers tell their students not to use their calculators for straightforward arithmetic. Young learners must develop the skills to solve these problems without additional help. Lecturers and their students should heed that basic lesson and develop the same attitude toward the use of Gen AI. Just like calculators, Gen AI has its place as a learning tool, but its value in education will be degraded if it is used as a foolproof or a one size-fit-all solution to all educational output.
Obviously, the opportunity of students to use Gen AI to create their homework and assignments is undeniable, and hence such practices should be addressed and mitigated at all costs. A delicate balance must be struck to ensure AI bolsters learning without undercutting the integrity and value of student work.
Societal Inequality Affecting Gen AI
Inequality is a real concern in education, and none more so than in access to digital, a need which is pushing the divide and making that level playing field for all, harder to achieve. A greater focus Gen AI could potentially affect disadvantaged students and widen the learning gap.
Collaborative partnerships between industry, education and the community need to be developed to build community IT access hubs and centres, giving the opportunity to deprived areas to gain educational benefit from Gen AI.
Future-sight of Gen AI in Education
Undoubtedly, Gen AI is going to play a significant role in formulating the future of learning. Whilst associated technologies have burst onto the scene, ready to deliver results, Gen AI remains in its early steps. But with each step, Gen AI’s learning grows exponentially. It is evolving at such a fast rate computing power, in parallel, needs to improve every 3.5 months. At this rate, it won’t be long before that toddler can run!
There are many learning applications that use Gen AI as a foundation technology, to enable their development. For example, virtual teachers already offer 24/7 support and guidance, empowering students to learn at their own speed. This type of AI driven tool can prove highly proficient in under-served and remote areas where traditional classroom-based education isn’t a readily available option.
Adaptive learning experiences Gen AI. Through real-time adjustments delivered by analytics, Gen AI can read learning needs and students’ abilities and create adaptive learning development pathways, offering students finely tuned learning experiences narrow-casted to their requirements, with targeted support to improve learning outcomes.
Gen AI systems can analyse students’ learning preferences, patterns, and nuances. Following the analytics results, teaching and content-delivery methods can be customised accordingly. Use of dashboard analytics supports a continual view of educational performance, and enables staff to quickly address any dip in performance in a particular course or unit.
As Gen AI is currently evolving, little exists within the realms of best practices for educational implementation of the technology. Leadership and big-picture vision are required to connect experts across disciplines to examine, test, and iterate before fully-scaled integration into education systems. Specifically, those tech leaders at the forefront of Gen AI must focus on privacy and ethical concerns to ensure solutions are designed to benefit the development of all learners, not just a select few.
Education Proceed with Caution in Gen AI World
Generative AI will become more omnipresent in education systems throughout the world, including higher education. It’s not a matter of “if” as much as it’s “when.”
However, lecturers, teachers and education technology leaders should proceed with a cautious optimism. No one denies that Gen AI can produce incredible results, and it can support the development of students' long-term growth. It is also true that the digital divide, inherent ‘learned’ biases, and general pitfalls aforementioned will negatively affect the results of Gen AI’s educational use if those in charge fail to integrate these AI tools with care.
Eternal vigilance is a must in monitoring the progress of Gen AI in learning. No students should be left behind while others soar ahead. Gen AI should benefit everybody. It should even the playing field, not tip the balance in one direction. Only foresight and judgement from academic leadership will ensure Gen AI becomes the educational panacea the hype proclaims it to be.