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How is AI Shaping Learning?
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, and 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?
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.
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. These chatbots can be text only or speech driven.
AI can curate and create content
GTP-4 is a chatbot AI from OpenAI. It does what AI has never done before; generates dialogue on any subject on over 100 languages. It can literally become a tutor on any subject. The shift from older uses of AI in learning is in the generation of fresh text in response to your questions. It provides true dialogue.
It can also produce learning content. I have been involved in developing a universal course creator that builds in good learning science to produce content that really does conform to good pedagogy.
Beyond that, good digital coaches can also be created. All of these are available 24/7 in multiple languages.
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 Sat Nav 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.
It 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. AI now provides this dynamism with real dialogue, which is how teachers have taught for centuries.
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. 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.
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.