How AI is Poised to Transform Higher Education

Education Technology Insights | Friday, November 30, 2018

A report on the Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector suggests that experts expect AI in education to grow by “47.50 percent during the period 2017-2021.” As such, there is an increasing concern among faculty members in educational institutions that they are going to be replaced by a robot or the internet soon. A poll conducted by Gallup and Northeast University states that 73 percent of Americans believe AI will eliminate more jobs than it will create. However, over 74 percent have also said that AI will have a positive impact on their lives. On campus, staff members are already leveraging AI to optimize administrative tasks, admissions, and to provide students with a faster and more personalized feedback system.

Jill Watson, an AI technical assistant, developed by Ashok Goel, from Georgia University is one of the early examples of successful AI application. Goel, a professor of computer science and cognitive science at the college created Jill to help him answer the many questions posted online by his students. After several iterations, he provided a live debut of Jill to the class. Now she communicates with the class on routine questions, and the students say her response is indistinguishable from human assistants. Another application implemented was by Erik Anderson, a computer science assistant professor at Cornell University. Erik, along with his colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, and Microsoft developed a program using AI to help math teachers determine how students arrive at incorrect answers. ”The AI reverse engineers the student thought process. It provides a much more nuanced view of what the student is doing,” says Anderson, who hopes that with further optimization the program can be used to solve more complex mathematical calculations. In addition to reducing teachers’ grading time, AI technology can thus be leveraged to render more insight on how to better teach concepts.

However, when it comes to emerging and yet-to-emerge applications, both educators and IT engineers are finding it challenging to integrate AI into existing systems. Bryan Fendley, director of instructional technology and web services at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, believes that it is crucial for universities not to sensationalize AI. “If you can get past the shock and normalize what AI can be on your campus, it will go a long way in helping you talk about AI and doing positive things with it,” says Fendley.

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