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AI for education brings benefits to burdened school staff

Using AI in education can have a dramatic impact on the way teachers use their time and the manner in which students are served individually. Expect the trend to continue.

Artificial intelligence technology is having a big impact on the experience of providing and delivering education....

It's already transforming the way students learn, assisting teachers and smoothing application and admissions processes.

AI transforms education inside and outside the classroom

Many K-12 classrooms struggle to adequately serve students of varying ability levels. Public schools in particular have stretched budgets and staff, which makes it hard to provide individualized attention to each student to ensure basic concepts are mastered before moving on. AI-powered tools are now starting to fill that gap, with customized tutoring and study programs to help those students struggling with basic concepts.

Through machine learning, these tools create adaptive learning features and personalized instruction, enabling each student to learn in the manner that best suits their abilities and pace, without impeding other students' educational experience. In essence, these AI systems are providing automated, personalized tutors. In the past, private tutors were a luxury only few could afford. However, as companies continue to create AI for education tools, almost all children can now get the personalized attention they need to learn to the best of their abilities.

Teachers have a long list of responsibilities that include things like grading homework, evaluating essays, responding to parent inquiries, creating lesson plans and other noninstructional tasks. AI tools are now helping with many of these activities, freeing up teachers' time and allowing them to focus on things that require a personal touch, like providing attention to students who need more hands-on instruction, facilitating group projects or leading classroom discussions. AI systems are grading math and science exams, work projects and some reading and writing assignments. While these AI systems have yet to prove themselves in terms of quality and applicability, schools that face limited budgets are finding the extra help provided by AI-enabled systems to be valuable.

Relieving administrative burdens with AI

Higher education and primary school private institutions struggle under heavy administrative burdens. Many schools, especially large state schools with high enrollments and popular schools with high application volumes, can struggle to handle the application and admissions process. Filtering through this large pool of potential students is often time-intensive, tedious and error-prone.

Universities and higher education institutions are using AI-based systems that borrow from the capabilities of job application and HR tools to help manage the applicant pool. These tools automatically winnow the candidates down to a desired batch that fits certain application criteria and automate some of the information gathering and interview steps, if required. In this way, AI for education is providing an augmentative role for these institutions, assisting existing staff with various duties and responsibilities without replacing them.


How ASU uses virtual assistants to guide new students

Furthermore, admissions staff are often burdened with multiple, often simple and repetitive inquiries from prospective students or parents. Forward-thinking institutions are using AI-powered chatbots to relieve some of this burden by answering questions about campus, student life and the admissions process, including where students stand in the process.

Many learning institutions and campuses with large student populations are taking the use of AI a step further. The process of getting settled into campus life and learning your way around, finding out about various student groups and familiarizing yourself with the locations of classes is daunting for many incoming students. Arizona State University (ASU) is using AI-enabled voice assistants in a unique and compelling way to address these problems. In addition to giving a group of incoming freshman the usual orientation packet, the school last year gave students an Amazon Alexa device pre-loaded with a companion that the university developed. The voice skill device is able to help students find out about ASU events, provide hours of operation for popular ASU businesses and buildings, answer frequently asked questions about the academic calendar and acquaint students with the school. ASU cited greater student satisfaction, higher usage of available facilities and a smaller burden on administrative staff from students using the device.

AI tools are additionally being used in the college educational experience. They are performing the work of Cliffs Notes, condensing and summarizing textbooks into smaller, more digestible study guides. One such system, Cram101, creates study guides with chapter summaries, practice exercises, tests and flashcards for students to use to study. This smart content allows students enhanced learning options not available before. Some platforms even provide feedback to professors for real-time insights into where each student stands in their classroom.

Augmenting, not replacing educators and administrators

The use of AI technology in the education industry is estimated to grow by 47.5% through 2021, according to analyst firm Research and Markets. Research firm Global Market Insights estimated that total market value of AI for education will grow to more than $6 billion by 2024. The key to this growth is that AI will be augmentative to most teaching institutions, helping add capabilities where they either didn't exist, such as the case of content summarization technology, or where high human labor capacity is required.

These AI tools will allow teachers to see in real time which students need more instruction, which students need to be pushed to the next level, and provide a helping hand for assigning and grading homework and tests. In addition, they will alleviate some of the workload of front office staff, provide the ability to answer questions 24/7 through AI-powered chatbots and allow students to feel more engaged and connected with various campus activities. Since many school budgets aren't slated to increase much in the years ahead and the labor load continues to grow, the use of AI to augment educators' and administrative staff abilities continues to gain traction.

This was last published in August 2018

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