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How is AI Shaping Learning?

Multi-coloured lines trailing a glowing point

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will shape online learning. This is inevitable. Why? Because AI is reshaping the very nature of work, finance, healthcare, retail, travel and entertainment - it is literally reshaping the online world.

AI can be used for learning across all types of organizations, schools, universities and workplaces. People who teach, lecture, instruct or train, and also those involved in the administration, delivery and even policy around online learning, can benefit from finding out more about using AI for learning, with real examples of real teaching and learning in real organizations with real learners.

Why AI in learning?

We have reached a point with online learning when the existing tools no longer match what people actually experience on the web. Almost everything you do online is mediated by AI: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikToK, Amazon and Netflix.

Much of what you experience online is personalized for you by AI, so one can argue that the one area of human endeavour that has most to gain from smart, personalized AI software is ‘learning’.

Any group of learners is likely to come with different levels of existing knowledge, abilities and needs. As they learn they will have different misunderstandings, hit different barriers, make different sorts of mistakes, progress at different rates. This is why one-size-fits-all learning leaves many behind. We need smart software, that can engage, support and assess learners dynamically, to help make people smarter.

This is the era of AI. Every one of the top global tech companies has AI as their core, strategic technology. AI is in every smartphone and computer. Increasingly, it is baked into the hardware. It drives almost every online service to such a degree that it could be said to support the entire world-wide-web.

So how can AI be used in learning? That is what this my book Artificial Intelligence for Learning is about; a practical guide to the many ways, using real examples, of how AI is used and can be used in learning.

AI and teachers

Forget robot teachers, that is a distraction. AI is more about supporting teachers than replacing them.

It will reduce workload by eliminating non-teaching tasks, allowing teachers to do what they do best, teach.

Similarly, AI will support learners, adapt to your learning journey, provide meaningful feedback, personalize learning and help with assessment.

Competence without comprehension

Curiously, all of this can be done without AI being conscious or comprehending what it does.

AI is competence without comprehension. It may beat you at chess, GO, poker and many other tasks, but it doesn’t know it has won. It is an idiot savant, brilliant at narrow, precision tasks, hopeless as an all-rounder… and teachers are all-rounders.

So, what specific tasks in teaching and learning can use AI?

AI is the new UI

AI mediates most major online services. It provides the invisible hand that personalizes your online experience as well as providing brand new interfaces, such as gesture and importantly, voice.

Text-to-speech and speech-to-text are enabled by AI. AI is therefore the new UI. Monologue will give way to dialogue in chatbots and we show plenty of examples of learner engagement, learner support and learning through many species of learning chatbots.

AI can curate and create content

GTP-3 is a new AI model from OpenAI. It can create text by just asking it a question. When tested, it fools humans, who can’t distinguish between AI and human generated content.

Right now you can use tools such as WildFire to create learning in minutes not months, with high-retention, even the semantic interpretation of typed in text sentences as answers by learners.

AI can take videos, grab the narratives and enhance that video with active, effortful learning. AI can be used to create audio from text, automatically curate internal and external content, and many precision tasks in the creation of learning experiences.

AI adaptive learning

AI can also be used to guide learners through a learning experience. It does this much the same way that your car’s SatNav gets you back on course if you take a wrong turn when driving.

In adaptive systems, learners take different learning journeys to their destination, being guided so that they stay on course. This allows us to personalize learning on a massive scale.

Full courses have been delivered for years with such software and now there are complete degree courses. We have real examples of adaptive learning, so successful that one institution, after using it, invested a six-figure sum in the platform.

Learning is a process not an event

AI lifts learning out of the flat, linear experiences that do not differentiate between learners.

AI uses personal and aggregated data, not only to learn itself (machine learning) but also to continuously use data to describe, analyse, predict and prescribe learning.

Learning is a process not an event and the process of delivery needs to be dynamic. We now see systems that do this, such as Learning eXperience Systems (LXPs) and Learning Record Scores (LRSs), to deliver push and pull learning to the right people at the right time in their learning journey.

In Artificial Intelligence for Learning we explore the definition and practical use of data, as well as learning analytics to move organizations to this next generation of learning technology.

AI and ethics

Mention AI and many educators and trainers immediately think of the ethical concerns. Our book takes each of the following in turn; dehumanization, bias, gender, race and transparency, even the existential threat.

We show that AI for learning is not as bad as you may fear. Nevertheless, there are AI issues that need to be addressed. The book suggests solutions to these issues.

What next?

AI is fast-moving. It is throwing out real surprises, advances that we couldn’t have dreamt of even a few years ago.

Some of this is literally mind-blowing, non-invasive and invasive techniques that measure what’s happening in the brain to guide teachers and learners and we don’t shy away from some speculation about a world where AI may play a huge and dominant role in learning, just as it appears to be doing in say retail, with massive disruption.

Conclusion

If you are a teacher, lecturer, trainer, administrator or policy person in the learning game, you can benefit from understanding what is happening with AI for learning as well as the possible futures.

Artificial Intelligence for Learning is not a technical book about AI, it is a practical book, designed to inform future decisions about the use of AI for learning.