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How AI in education can dominate in 2020

Swapnil Dharmadhikari, founder of SplashgainSwapnil Dharmadhikari

What do you think of when you hear the term Artificial Intelligence, popularly known as AI? 

A dystopian future where machines revolt and take over the human race?

Or a future where human capabilities are furthered with the help of AI and we enter a new era of unprecedented development? 

It is easy to get scared of Artificial Intelligence with many science fiction movies and science fiction literature presenting a dystopian future with AI. After all, it’s not easy to trust a small semiconductor chip, with dimensions in millimetres, to make important decisions and suggestions. 

AI hardware is the definition of the proverb ‘Good things come in small packets’. An AI chip of dimensions in mere millimetres houses an astounding 21.1 Billion transistors!

AI has a lot of potentials. It can do any task in seconds, for which humans might require many hours. Though many consumers don’t understand that they are using an AI-powered device or an AI-powered program, the reality is quite different. 

How AI has an impact across industries 

AI impact across industries AI is growing at a brisk rate. It is expected to be a US$ 60 Billion market by 2025 and the global GDP is expected to grow by US$ 15.7 trillion by 2030 because of the contribution by AI. 

AI has already penetrated our lives on a personal level. According to a study by creative strategies, Around 97% of smartphone users are using AI-driven voice assistants like Siri and the google assistant. 

While 33% of consumers of technology think they use an AI-powered device when actually 77% are using an AI-powered device. (source: Pega). People are using AI-inspired technology more than they think they use.  

Did you know that now AI is being used to save lives? 

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence and Massachusetts General Hospital has developed a program that can predict from a mammogram if a patient can develop breast cancer, up to five years in future? (Source: MIT News)

Isn’t it amazing that a computer program can predict whether you might suffer from a life-threatening disease, up to five years in future?

This example is a clear testament to the power and potential of Artificial Intelligence. 

The state of the Indian Education System

To put it in simple words, the education sector is massive: Herculean and Gargantuan. 

The population of India is young, more than half of its population is under the age of twenty-five years. The student population in India is at a staggering 315 million students.

If we were to draw a simple comparison, the Indian student population is only a few million students short of the entire population of the United States of America, the 3rd largest country in the world in terms of population. And, the number of students is only growing. 

The Indian education system, however, is going through a crisis. 

According to the 2016 statistics of the Human Resource and Development (HRD) Ministry of the Government of India, there is a shortage of one million teachers. In rural India, sometimes one single teacher has to teach Mathematics, Science and Social Studies to a whole batch of students. In universities and colleges, there is a chronic shortage of faculty in multiple departments. 

Educational infrastructure is also crippling, and it lacks investment. This means that even though students are graduating, they do not have enough knowledge and practical experience of their field, making them susceptible to unemployment due to intensifying competition and industry standards. 

In recent years, parents and students alike have complained that the education system in its present state does not contribute to the overall development of the child. The system focuses on rote learning and not the practical implementation of the theory. There is little space for students to excel in sports and arts, and often these fields are not encouraged but frowned upon. 

The system also fails to recognize that each child is different and one standard method of teaching may not be suitable for every child. Students who don’t understand concepts in class, often fall behind their peers and lose confidence. This implies that the education system is not inclusive of all its pupils. 

All of this is happening in an era when the world is not only fighting for the Right to Education but the Right to Quality Education. Many organisations are campaigning for the right to quality education and improving education standards around the world. 

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 adopted by the United Nations

“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” aims at providing quality for all by the year 2030. 

How AI can be the key solution to improving the Indian Education System

As we have seen in the examples above, AI is helping further the abilities of and advance many sectors. 

The education sector has been slow in the uptake of AI mainly due to apprehensions of educators and parents about trusting machines in teaching students. But now AI is being used to revolutionize the education sector and answer the many problems that have been plaguing the education sector for many years. 

In India, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) very recently introduced two teachers handbooks to help integrate AI in schools, in line with its target to teach 22,000 schools AI and futuristic technologies. 

The first facilitator’s handbook is about AI curriculum for standard 8th and 9th students. The curriculum is will take up 112 hours, and is based on experimental methodologies covering both social and technological skills. 

The second facilitator’s handbook is about AI integration across subjects to enhance the multidisciplinary approach in the teaching-learning process with the integration of AI. This handbook talks about how schools can use AI technology to train teachers from class 6 to class 10 with respect to relevant topics/themes from their respective curricula. This handbook discusses how AI-based tools can enhance learning within and outside classrooms. (source: Times of India)

This shows that the education community is now accepting AI as a tool which can enhance the teaching-learning process and benefit teachers and students alike. 

The AI in the education market is supposed to reach USD 2 billion by 2023 growing at 38% CAGR in the forecast period 2018-2023 (Source: Market Research Future). 

Let’s see some other ways in which AI is bringing about the much-needed advancements in the education system: 

Artificial Intelligence can help teachers in conducting exams

Examinations are an indifferentiable part of education, and they are important milestones in a student’s educational journey. 

Exams require a lot of planning, right from setting question papers, printing question paper and answer sheets, distributing these question papers across all examination centres, evaluating answer sheets and then finally process the results of the exam. 

This whole process often takes months to finish, and it is labour intensive and costly. By the time one examination cycle is finished, it is the time to start planning for the next examination. This whole process takes up a lot of time of teachers and burdens them with more work. 

AI-powered online assessment tools are now being used by many universities to conduct online exams. These systems set the question papers themselves, from a pre-existing question bank. Such question banks are designed by subject matter experts and they can be updated and edited as per the need and convenience of the institute. All that teachers need to do for an online examination system is to design an online question bank, and moderate the question paper generated by the system. After this is done, all tasks right up to calculating the result will be done by the online examination system. 

Since the exam is online, there is no need to print and distribute question papers and answer sheets.

Thus online examination systems save teachers a lot of time, which they can dedicate to students and it reduces the burden of administrative tasks on them.

Artificial Intelligence is helping teachers improve teaching techniques

AI improves teaching techniqueAs we have discussed before, one teaching technique may not be suitable for all students. Teachers need to understand how students respond to different techniques and which technique or method is more effective in helping students understand different concepts. 

Let’s also consider a different scenario. One technique which might be useful in teaching one concept, might not necessarily work for another. 

Thus it becomes quite difficult for teachers to come up with the perfect way to teach students.  

AI can help teachers solve this problem by providing feedback.

AI can monitor the batch’s performance in a quiz or test and give detailed analytics to the batch’s performance for various subjects and topics. With the help of this feedback, teachers know exactly how students respond to a particular technique. 

Over time, with sufficient feedback provided by AI, teachers can come with a perfect strategy to teach students. An added advantage of this feedback system is that teachers know which students are lagging, and they can personally work with these students to help them understand concepts. 

AI can help personalize teaching 

We have started using AI-powered personal assistants on a daily basis and for personal tasks like making a reservation at a restaurant, booking flight tickets, ordering something from Amazon with a mere voice command, making an appointment with your dentist and so on. 

Many social media apps and websites use AI algorithms to track your activity and understand your preferences and areas of interest to curate a personalised feed for you and give you a better experience. You can notice this in the typical ‘for you’ section on many websites and platforms you frequently visit. 

So, we have entered an era where everything can be personalised to suit our tastes and interests. This is changing how we viewed machines and technology, a series of rigid codes capable of doing only one task. 

This principle of personalising technology can be used in education as well!

AI can understand and adapt to a student’s learning abilities and it can come up with personalized teaching techniques to help students understand concepts more easily. AI can also help students understand the practical implementation of theory, and go beyond rote learning. 

Personalized AI assistants can be used to address the shortage of teachers in the education sector. These tools find the best ways to teach students by studying their behaviour and response to different techniques and help students learn at their own pace. 

An added advantage of such tools is that they can be used for students with special needs. AI can come up with the right methods of imparting education, unique and best suited to the child. This can greatly contribute to the development of the child. 

AI can help simplify administrative tasks

Simple, but necessary tasks like keeping attendance, grading quizzes and tests and correcting textbooks burdens teachers and takes up a lot of their time. 

AI-driven systems like biometric attendance systems and online grading tools can be used to reduce the burden of administrative tasks on teachers. Teachers can use this time to focus on children and help children with special needs. 

AI is making online exams more secure

Online examinations have gained wide acceptance in recent years. But people are wary to accept the credibility of online exams because of various malpractices like impersonation and cheating. 

One of the advantages of conducting online exams is that it comes with n-number checks and balances to avoid any malpractices from being carried out. Perhaps, these checks and balances make online exams more secure and efficient in rooting out malpractices. Offline exams still have the risk of human errors which won’t be a problem with online exams. 

Various AI technologies like Facial Recognition and Voice Recognition are helping tackle these malpractices. AI has made online exams more secure and as a result, online exams have gained wider acceptance.

Future of AI (Artificial Intelligence)

AI has already brought about many changes in the education sector. With AI education has become more accessible and personalized for students, improving the quality of education we receive. 

It is predicted that in the future, students will have a personalized assistant, a robot, throughout their school, if not their entire lives. Similarly, there will be AI-powered assistants for teachers to help them in certain tasks like grading assignments and correcting textbooks. 

AI will also help connect classrooms across the world and create a link between students worldwide. This will help bring the globe to students’ classrooms and help them expose to different views, opinions and cultures. AI will facilitate in building a holistic environment in classrooms.  

Yet, with all of these advancements, we are only at the tip of the iceberg. There are many more possibilities with AI. What we need to do is, dig deeper to reap the full benefits of this marvellous piece of technology.

Also read: Impact of online learning on school education

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