AI in learning. Blessing in disguise, or not?

The Artificial Intelligence phenomenon has arrived, and it is here to stay. It has already begun to revolutionize models of interactions in sectors such as business, healthcare, manufacturing, and services. And now it is making inroads into education as well.

Any new invention / innovation is bound to ruffle feathers in the beginning – our collective response to AI is no different. Understandably, there are doubts and uncertainties over the use of AI in education, and it needs clarity.

Students pursuing higher education in top international study destinations should especially keep these points – benefits and disadvantages – in mind as the likelihood of AI integration by overseas colleges / universities in study programs is quite high.

Benefits of AI in education

  1. Methodical & Analytical: AI, simply put, is a pre-programmed arrangement of content / information in any given field. Its biggest benefit is that all the knowledge can be easily accessed without the need to scour libraries. This saves time and effort, which results in better investment of time in imbibing the knowledge. AI tools can also help students with analytical skills required during project submissions.
  2. Immersive Learning: Depending on the study program, immersive AI tools – such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality – can boost memory and retention of information. Instead of just ‘reading’ or listening to a ‘lecture’, students pursuing STEM education can explore the inner mechanics / finer details of equations. Students pursuing aeronautics or logistics for example can better see larger details up close and personal. Enhanced knowledge absorption is yet another benefit of learning through AI.
  3. Personalized Learning: Every student’s orientation and methods of learning are different. AI is programmed to challenge the learning abilities based on students’ strengths and weaknesses. It comes in quite handy for teachers also, since it is humanly impossible to keep a tab on each and every student. Reports generated by AI on students’ participation and engagement in their study program provides a great assessment tool for teachers.

Disadvantages of AI in education

  1. Impersonal: Students would suffer a lot in long term should the powers that be choose to completely replace teachers and classrooms with AI. Reason? Humans are hard-wired to personal connection. A pre-programmed tool, despite all its intelligence, cannot connect with students the way teachers do, and it definitely cannot demonstrate empathy or be the source of inspiration & guidance that all great teaches are. What could be the outcome of young students learning from AI for long periods without teacher-student interaction, no one knows!
  2. Limitations: A machine-based tool in all probability is incapable of resolving complex and unique problems or situations. That is its biggest limitation. New issues will continue to emerge in almost every sphere of life and in education as societies evolve. A tool that is pre-programmed cannot have inspiration of its own. Therefore, students who are totally dependent on AI would be limited to its uses. This is just one of the many limitations of AI.
  3. Vulnerable: AI cannot identify or differentiate biases. Any ulterior motive can be pre-programmed, algorithms can be used to promote and further ideologies without any transparency whatsoever. This is perhaps the biggest ethical concern that is hotly debated in the education sector. Students must be protected from agendas of all kind.

Educators, policy-makers, social reformists must come together to carefully consider all pros and cons before implementing AI in education. The right thing to do would be to find the right mix of AI and human interactions. And future of students must be at the centre of any policy-making.

P.S.: ChatGPT, Google Cloud Learning Machine, IBM Watson, Cortana and Azure Machine Learning Studio are, as of today, the top-5 AI tools to consider. Whether or not the college / university you are pursuing your study program has integrated AI in their teaching modules, these AI tools could prove to be helpful in your pursuit of academic excellence.

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