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How AI Will Permanently Disrupt The Education Industry

Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize education as we know it. By providing personalized and adaptive learning experiences for students, schools are going to have to shift their educational models to incorporate a more customized learning process tailored to individual needs and learning styles. To what extent will this impact students and teachers across the world? Only time will tell!
Updated September 3, 2023
a bunch of robots sitting in their seats at desks in a school classroom, with a view of a chalkboard in the background, drawn as memphis, 1980s style
a bunch of robots sitting in their seats at desks in a school classroom, with a view of a chalkboard in the background, drawn as memphis, 1980s style

The education industry is on the cusp of major disruption as artificial intelligence begins to assert dominance across the technology, business, and education industries.

From unfair student advantages to fully-automated tutoring sessions, AI is starting to transform not just the way we think, but the systems and daily structures we actually operate on.

What potential benefits and drawbacks will result because of this shift? What about the ethical challenges that get introduced?

Unprecedented change is coming, but is it necessary to worry? Change is often seen as negative, but I see many benefits in integrating AI into our educational society.

Regardless, a tsunami-like impact is coming. Whether it be students, teachers, or archaic educational institutions – many will have to adapt to reap the benefits AI will provide over the next decade.

So how exactly is AI on track to permanently disrupt the education industry & is it a cause for concern?

What Even is AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the ability for machines to perform tasks that would normally (or be greatly optimized by) human intelligence.

AI is being used for things such as understanding language, recognizing patterns, and making decisions. There are tons of approaches to developing AI, and the field has evolved a ton over the last few years.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a new approach to computing called "machine learning" emerged, which allowed machines to learn from sets of data rather than being explicitly programmed. Machines would take these predictions and then make decisions based on the data.

They've gotten so good that companies often find out information about their sales or outreach processes that they would've otherwise never realized.

Due to both advances in machine learning and the availability of large amounts of computer processing power, AI has exponentially exploded in recent months. One notable development has been the emergence of "deep learning" algorithms, which are structured & function similar to human brain processes.

OpenAI, an AI research company in San Fransisco, has been working on AI tools like ChatGPT that have rapidly approached the public spotlight.

What Role Does AI Currently Play in Education?

We're still at the point where AI must be used with expert human intelligence to get things done. Popular apps like Duolingo combine human expertise with artificial intelligence in a way that leverages the strengths of each.

This is the artificially-assisted zone, and we're most likely going to stay in this limbo phase for the next few years. By the end of the decade, I'm sure software will be way more reliant on AI models and will require even less human intervention once configured.

Dubbed adaptive learning, this technology is expected to be the future of education, and a major driver of AI-related tutoring software. Knewton is a tool that uses AI to tailor educational content to the needs of individual students, allowing for a more personalized learning experience very different than traditional standardized tutoring software.

Similarly to Knewton, tools like Ocelot go even further by using AI communications like 2-way texting, AI chatbots, and live chat to increase student retention, enrollment, and ultimately their success.

AI use cases are still relatively limited in the classroom today, but month over month we're starting to see rapid advancements from mega-companies like Google and Microsoft, some of the major leaders of the AI revolution.

These assistive technologies will become powerful tools for teachers & students alike – allowing for greater amounts of time to be spent on things like critical thinking and problem skills, while reducing headaches behind the scenes. If we can get to a point where education is about application over memorization, we’ll see massive improvements in the quality of student's knowledge & skills.

While these applications may seem small in scale, they represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of the transformative potential of AI in education.

All of these tools are really a tease into the future. Would you believe me if I said a total of 34 billion dollars were awarded to AI startups just in the last year? With these numbers predicted to nearly double by the end of 2023.

How Will AI Revolutionize Education?

From personalizing learning experiences to automating and optimizing grading systems, AI has the potential to significantly transform the way we approach education.

It's not a matter of if, but when.

Schools will most likely start scrambling over the next few months as AI becomes a rising threat. While this is somewhat true, the top educational institutions will realize there's ultimately no avoiding the revolution.

The smarter institutions will work with AI, while the stubborn ones will try to work against it. Some of the most impactful ways education will be revolutionized by AI include completely changing teaching models, ensuring greater accessibility to customized learning, and tailoring and automating grading models to reduce bias.

The Impact of AI on Traditional Education Models

Traditional school learning models often involve students sitting in a classroom and listening to lectures from a teacher. Homework and assignments are typically given as a way to reinforce material covered in class.

Regardless of competence, generally speaking, everyone has to do the same thing. AI models can track the progress & generate tailored methods to teach and reinforce each student, allowing teachers to have a more detailed and in-depth understanding of individual students' needs.

AI software will eventually provide teachers with same-day analytics, so they know how well their students are grasping concepts and where their weaknesses lie.

This would give teachers essential information on what to teach, and more importantly, how to teach it. AI-driven software will eventually embrace predictive analytics to identify students who are at risk of falling behind, as well as guide remedial instruction.

Teachers will have reports of which learning styles their students learn best & offer support on how to tailor specific material to each type of style. This "individual ai-footprint" software will recognize patterns and understand students like something never seen before.

Schools will need to shift their education models to incorporate a more personalized and adaptive learning experience. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, students will have access to customized learning materials and resources that are tailored to their individual needs and learning styles.

Schools must realize their outdated teaching models are no longer possible to sustain quality education & reinforcement and will need to be modernized. Since students can also use AI themselves to instantaneously write research papers, teachers will have to adjust their plans to involve assignments based on critical thinking problem-solving skills, which can't be faked as easily with AI cheating tools.

AI-Powered Cheating Tools (Like AI Writing Services)

With learning enhancements also come detrimental classroom impacts. I have very mixed opinions on this. If an AI can synthesize and write an essay on a book within seconds, what unique value would a student be delivering besides showing competency? Or is it even competency? The next level of education will have to focus much more on complex analysis & perspective interpretations, which will require a lot more critical thinking than just regurgitating some Sparknotes.

Teachers will have to focus on teaching & assessing skills that are difficult for AI to replicate like critical thinking, creativity, communication, and problem-solving skills.

While research essays require careful synthesis and interpretation of information currently not extensively possible with AI, I believe this technology is nearly here. When tools like GPT-4 become available, teachers are going to have to adapt very hard.

A really easy way of getting around this would be reverting back to norms from a few decades ago... the good ol' pen and paper. I could totally see high school & university classes requiring a lot more done in class, resulting in more of a "flipped classroom" approach. Students will go home and learn content, come into class to discuss, then have exams and other written deliverables completed during lecture hours.

You could try to check for AI writing with industry-level tools, but it's nowhere near a definitive way of determining or validating a piece of writing. AI prediction works by matching patterns, which could be outsmarted by rewording snippets of content. It'll be super interesting to see how this changes college admissions, degree accreditation, and general ways universities assess student performance.

Personalized Tutors & Disability Assistance

Tutoring has always been a hot topic in schools. They're expensive, a singular person, and the best ones have high barriers to entry. AI tutors can be a big help, as they're able to provide personalized advice on how to tackle essays, math problems, and other classes.

Traditional education methods often rely on a one-size-fits-all approach, in which all students are expected to learn at the same pace and in the same way. Customized tutors can be especially helpful for students who may struggle with traditional classroom learning or who need extra support to reach their full potential. Take a look at this example ChatGPT gave me when I asked it to explain a coding & statistics concept:

ChatGPT explaining recursion (programming concept) in a simple and easy way of understanding
ChatGPT explaining statistical correlation and correlation efficient in an easy and understandable way

Adaptive Testing and Student Equity

Traditional testing often has a fixed level of difficulty and is not tailored to an individual student's ability. Each student gets the same exam, with the same questions and answers. However things like AI-enabled adaptive testing can adjust to a student's individual skill level and provide more personalized assessment which can examine students with questions that are more reflective on their learning styles (grabbing data from their AI footprint)

School shouldn't be about "passing" or "failing" (although this is another topic we could probably talk about for hours). Things have become way too binary and students often stress more about passing a class than actually learning the material associated with it. Schools will have to think beyond the box of the traditional education model. Classes might just have to become about learning again. Of course, formal assessments are currently an integral part of determining subject competence, but AI is going to push the bounds regarding what this actually means. What if we were able to determine competence in a holistic way that's never before thought of? I'm not so sure, but I do know something major is coming.

People want things to be fair, right? If we want to create a better educational standard, we will need to factor in qualities like a student's background, available access to resources, and prior knowledge – all things AI could combine to analyze better than humans can.

Automating Grading Systems & Reducing Grading Bias

While we're on the topic of fairness and equity, what about grading? Most teachers I've known have always hated grading. One potential advantage of using AI for grading is highly optimizing the manual process teachers currently go through. Teachers with large classes can literally tailor their grading software to not only reduce subconscious bias, but to improve the accuracy of accurate assignment grading! Imagine that! And imagine it being completed while dinner is cooking.

AI is not subject to the same cognitive biases or personal preferences as a human grader, but I don't want to claim it's not biased (because it is!). Look at SAT and AP exams. How fair is it to the student who has their paper graded right after the grader had a nice lunch compared to the first paper on a Monday morning? Weird.

Ethics and Implications of Educational AI

And at last, with all things come the ethics behind it. The integration of AI in education also raises several ethical and philosophical issues. With AI being used to measure student performance and provide feedback, the question of fairness comes into play again.

What happens if the AI is biased? How can we ensure that AI-generated feedback is accurate and unbiased? How will AI affect critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities?

AI algorithms are only as fair and unbiased as the data they are trained on. If the data used to train an AI system is biased, the AI system will also be biased. This can lead to further unequal educational opportunities for marginalized groups and perpetuate existing inequalities. And unfortunately, since data is made up from human production, it will be biased.

What about AI replacing human teachers? While AI can certainly assist teachers and automate certain tasks, will teachers eventually become obsolete? I don't think so! With every industry AI gets behind, humans are still sailing the ship. The realistic answer is teachers will most likely work with AI tools to supplement their weaknesses.

Change Is Coming, And It's Coming Soon

We're on the brink of artificial intelligence fundamentally changing the way our society thinks about education. It's going to start with the tech community, then impact teachers, before finally trickling down and impacting students, parents, and families across the world.

AI won't be a silver bullet for all of education's problems, but it has tremendous potential to improve the current system and make learning more accessible and equitable for everyone. Technology will continue to evolve, and we should make sure we use AI to create an educational future that benefits us all. We should stay alert to the negatives associated with these advancements but ensure we mitigate these impacts to create a better educational system.

This can seem daunting – but with proper regulation, legislation, and ethical oversight, the use of AI in education will unleash an era of transformative learning and social progress. It's an exciting time to witness the AI revolution and its impact on education, and it's certainly something we all should keep our eyes on. Only time will tell how things will play out, but I'm sure like all things – we will adapt and move forward. What are your thoughts on AI in education? Is this going to be a miserable disruption or a seamless transition?

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Written by Justin Gluska
Justin is the founder of Gold Penguin, a business technology blog that helps people start, grow, and scale their business using AI. The world is changing and he believes it's best to make use of the new technology that is starting to change the world. If it can help you make more money or save you time, he'll write about it!
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