Before COVID-19, even though there was plenty of evidence of its positive impact, the education community still seemed reluctant to adopt more digital initiatives and to use AI as part of its pedagogical strategies. Then came the pandemic, and lockdowns and quarantines created a sudden urge to embrace remote learning and to leverage data to gain visibility into how students were adapting to the new situation. Though educational systems around the world were not ready to deal with such a disruption (to be fair, no one really was), the decisive and quick action of different institutions and companies allowed for the fast development and implementation of a variety of digital tools aimed at enhancing the use of data and AI in education.
As it turns out, the pandemic has only been a nudge for a long-delayed change to finally take off. All these efforts, although currently at an initial phase, are likely to have a huge impact in the future. And not just our immediate future, but the future of coming generations.
AI and Data: Building new learning experiences for a new world
The basis of the most mainstream educational systems was developed at some point in the 19th century, in the midst of the First Industrial Revolution. So it is no wonder that they have an approach leaning toward standardization. They aimed at training citizens capable of performing mostly repetitive tasks in a disciplined manner. Of course, this approach is not appropriate if we want to foster creative thinking, innovation, and the kind of adaptive abilities that a constantly-changing world demands. In a word, today we need to educate the new generations to express their singularity, rather than to fit into some previously defined mold.
This is where both data analytics and AI can help develop a much more personalized approach to education, offering tools that help educators track students’ engagement, progress, and overall well-being. Education Insights, a feature in Microsoft Teams for Education, is an example of this sort. It allows teachers to interact with learners within the platform and track their progress at both group and individual levels. A wide variety of built-in digital apps can be used to develop a more personalized approach to learning programs, based on their unique level of knowledge, their interests, and their goals.
Personalization is perhaps the biggest trend in education that AI and data can help boost in the immediate future. By analyzing students’ learning histories, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and orienting them into the courses best suited for their improvement, they can fuel a radical change in the way learning is experienced.
Challenges and opportunities for Education in a Data and AI-driven era
Today, after the worst part of the pandemic and its quarantines have been left behind, institutions from all over the world are leaning towards a hybrid model in which remote lessons are combined with presence in the classroom. Their learning strategies based on data analytics and AI have been growing at a fast pace. And as the benefits of digitalization have been unveiled through the experience of these last years, they are exploring new opportunities to leverage technology to enhance learning experiences.
Yet, it will certainly not be a journey without challenges. Institutions such as UNESCO have declared their worries about how digitalization, if not properly implemented, may lead to wider gaps in societies. Equipping every student with digital devices and ensuring girls are not left behind are key to guaranteeing that the benefits of data and AI strategies in education reach everybody.
As old and outdated as they are in so many aspects, educational systems had the goal of democratizing access to knowledge and information, helping people realize their potential within the context in which they lived, and contributing to a more even distribution of wealth within societies. Today, technology is becoming the main ally of educators to develop a new paradigm in education, one that is better adapted to our times and that will better prepare the new generations for the many challenges humanity has ahead.
If you’re interested in learning more about AI and its impact on our daily lives, we invite you to keep reading our blog.