AI can transform education for the better

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ASTUDENTS AND As students return to classrooms and lecture halls for the new year, it is striking how little education has changed in recent decades. Laptops and interactive whiteboards are hardly a disruption. Many parents confused by the way their children shop or socialize would not be perturbed by the way they are taught. The sector continues to lag behind digital technology: American schools and universities devote approximately 2% and 5% of their budgets to technology, respectively, compared to 8% for the average American company. Tech people have long coveted a larger share of the $6 trillion the world spends on education each year.

When the pandemic forced schools and universities to close their doors, the time for a digital offensive seemed at hand. Students have flocked to online learning platforms to fill the gaps left by staid Zoom classes. The market value of Chegg, an online tutoring provider, rose from $5 billion in early 2020 to $12 billion a year later. Byju's, an Indian peer, soared to a private valuation of $22 billion in March 2022 as it recruited other suppliers across the world. Global venture capital investments in education-related startups increased from $7 billion in 2019 to $20 billion in 2021, according to Crunchbase, a data provider.

Then, once covid was under control, classes resumed pretty much as before. By the end of 2022, Chegg's market value had fallen to $3 billion. Early last year, investment firms including BlackRock and Prosus began writing down the value of their stakes in Byju's as its losses mounted. “Looking back, we got a little too big and a little too fast,” admits Divya Gokulnath, co-founder of the company.

If the pandemic couldn't overcome the education sector's resistance to digital disruption, can artificial intelligence? CatGoogle Tag-as generative AI, who can converse intelligently on a wide variety of topics, this certainly fits the bill. So much so that educationalists began to panic that students would use it to cheat on their homework and assignments. In January 2023, New York City banned chattingGoogle Tag public schools. However, it is gaining popularity as a way to provide personalized tutoring to students and speed up tedious tasks such as marking. In May, New York let the robot enter classrooms.

Learners, for their part, embrace technology. Two-fifths of undergraduates surveyed last year by Chegg said they use a AI a chatbot to help them with their studies, with half of them using it daily. Indeed, the technology's popularity has raised tricky questions for companies like Chegg, whose stock price plunged last May after Dan Rosensweig, its chief executive, told investors it was losing customers for the benefit of Cat.Google Tag. However, there are good reasons to believe that education specialists who exploit AI will eventually prevail over generalists like OpenAIthe creator of CatGoogle Tagand other technology companies interested in the education sector.

For a, AI Chatbots have a bad habit of talking nonsense, an unnecessary trait in an educational context. “Students want content from trusted providers,” says Kate Edwards, chief educator at Pearson, a textbook publisher. The company did not allow chatGoogle Tag and other AIs to ingest its material, but instead used the content to train its own models, which it integrates into its suite of learning applications. Rivals including McGraw Hill are taking a similar approach. Chegg has also developed its own AI bot that he trained on his large question and answer dataset.

Moreover, as Chegg's Mr. Rosensweig argues, teaching is not just about giving students an answer, but presenting it in a way that helps them learn. Understanding pedagogy thus gives education specialists an advantage. Pearson designed his AI tools to engage students by breaking down complex topics, testing their understanding and providing quick feedback, Edwards says. Byju's incorporates 'forgetting curves' for students into its design AI tutoring tools, refreshing their memories at personalized intervals. Chatbots must also be adapted to different age groups, to avoid confusing or infantilizing students.

Specialists who have already established relationships with risk-averse educational institutions will have the added advantage of being able to integrate AI in otherwise familiar products. Anthology, an educational software maker, has integratedAI features in its Blackboard Learn program to help teachers quickly create lesson plans, rubrics, and tests. Established vendors are also better placed to educate teachers on how to use AIthe abilities of.

AI for effort

Bringing AI accessing education will not be easy. Although teachers have had a Covid-induced crash course in educational technology, many are still behind the learning curve. Less than a fifth of UK educators surveyed by Pearson last year said they had received training on digital learning tools. The tight budgets of many institutions will make selling new technologies an uphill battle. AI it will be necessary to convince the skeptics and the new AI-power tools may be required to catch AI– powered cheat. Tricky questions will inevitably arise about what all this means for teachers' work: their attention may need to turn to motivating students and teaching them how best to work with AI tools. “We owe the industry answers on how to exploit this technology,” says Bruce Dahlgren, head of Anthology.

If these answers can be provided, it will not only be companies like Mr. Dahlgren's that benefit. An influential 1984 article by Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist, found that one-on-one tutoring both improved students' average academic performance and narrowed the gaps between them. AI could finally make individual tutors viable for the greatest number. Given that the learning of students, particularly those from poorer households, has been hampered by the upheaval of the pandemic, such a development would certainly merit top marks.

Learn more about Schumpeter, our global trade columnist:
Meet the savviest operators in today's oil markets (January 3)
Can anyone except Europe do luxury? (December 20)
Stupid anti-immigration politicians are holding back globalization (December 14)

Also: If you would like to write to Schumpeter directly, email him at [email protected]. And here's an explanation of how Schumpeter's Column got its name.

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