How AI Will Transform Higher Education

How AI Will Transform Higher Education

  • 18 Jul 2019
  • 159
  • Admin
How AI Will Transform Higher Education

Taken from TOI
Author: Utkarsh Amitabh
July 17, 2019, 10:33 AM IST

Most higher education institutions haven’t changed for over 200 years. Today, universities have been reduced to expensive diploma offering factories with flickering relevance. Apart from signaling some level of competence, they aren’t doing much for graduates. Most importantly, they are woefully unprepared for the changes brought about by the 4th Industrial Revolution. Forget the future of work, the current higher education system is struggling to keep pace with existing industry demands. Most employers have to retrain their new hires so that they unlearn years of misguided learning.

Authors of 100 Year Life, Lynda Gratton, and Andrew Scott offer three defining features of work in the 21st century. First, people are likely to live much longer. Being a centenarian will be commonplace. Second, the lifespan of organizations will significantly reduce, so long-term employment will become a thing of the past. Third, the concept of retirement will fade away, partly due to financial reasons and partly out of choice.

Combining all these factors, it is easy to visualize how one might have to spend several more years learning and unlearning in order to build a viable portfolio of careers. If higher education institutions aren’t doing their job, what are our alternatives? How can we fix the broken higher education system plaguing the world, especially emerging countries?

The factory-inspired, 19th century model of education, common in most universities today, made sense when there were severe limitations on teaching resources. But AI can help us overcome such constraints by leveraging three of its defining features: perception, recognition, and recommendation, thereby creating personalized learning for students and more free time for instructors.

Let’s try and visualize an AI-powered higher education experience. It will operate on 4 planes: in-class teaching, learning assessment, opportunity matching for internships and jobs, mentoring from peers and experts.

Imagine Sally sitting in Beirut. She is enrolled in a distance learning program that brings together leading data science professors from around the world and awards a degree valued by the most coveted employers. She attends lectures in a coworking space. There is a video camera at the front of the room that uses facial recognition and posture analysis not only to take attendance but also to figure out if Sally is paying attention. Maybe she is unwell and not able to concentrate. All this data is fed into her student profile and a customized homework is created for her. Sally completes her assignment with some help from her peer mentor who is matched with her, based on her learning needs. They both build a friendship and over time, start working on complex data sets together. They figure out a way to optimize an algorithm that is precious to one of the sponsors of the program. After several rounds of back and forth, they decide to patent their solution and work on their idea independently. They move from full-time degree program to a flexible-part time option designed for entrepreneurs.

The example above might sound compelling but it is bound to fail in the short term. Today, there are innumerable digital learning platforms powered by AI that are struggling to find customers. Even when students signup, only 3% end up completing course requirements. In fact, research presented by Dr. Susan Dynarski from the University of Michigan makes it abundantly clear that while online education works for mature learners, it can harm academically weak students and compromise on conceptual learning. Clearly, the AI-powered education technology model is missing something critical. That’s why there is an urgent need to complement AI-based learning tools with the power of communities. This approach will humanize the way we think about both higher education and technology.

No matter how sophisticated our gadgets become, it is hard to relate to shiny, dark screens. All of us have a fundamental need to belong, learn and share. We need meaningful communities as they are force multipliers. They make learning fun and create a peer-to-peer accountability mechanism that shapes a culture of learning. AI enables personalization at scale. Only by combining both AI and communities will higher education will begin to embrace its true potential and prepare students for the adventures of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Sponsored Ads

Gayatri MedicoThergaon (Pune)