As students return to classrooms and workers get back to the grind after a well-needed break, learning and self-development seem topics worthy of reflection. From primary schooling to professional training, recent decades have seen drastic transformations in the education sector – with traditional, overly didactic styles being swiftly replaced by more holistic, progressive teaching methods.

Add to this the growing influence of artificial intelligence in education, or AIEd, and we’re seeing the potential to revolutionize learning for a richer, more effective and inclusive experience than ever before.  

Machine learning or machine teaching?

Training machines to learn from humans through high quality training data is at the very core of successful AI. The better the data, the more accurately machines can learn to mimic our behavior. But if there’s one thing the very existence of AI demonstrates, it’s that the human brain is an incredible and complex phenomenon.  

A huge challenge for AI technologists is the sheer variety of how humans think and the fact that we process information – or in other words, learn – in surprisingly different and unique ways. Despite these challenges, AI has come on leaps and bounds in recognizing and replicating human thought patterns. So much so that machines are not only learning from us, they’re even starting to teach us too. Sound ominous? Hold that thought. 

My way or the AI way

Fortunately for today’s learners, they can increasingly enjoy the best of both. In fact, the role of AI in education is largely about breaking away from the one-size-fits-all approach and delivering a learning experience that is even more “my way” than any curriculum we could design for ourselves.  

Creating an environment where students who struggle with a subject can feel encouraged and supported, while those with a more natural ability are able to progress with momentum, has always been a delicate balancing act for educators. Now, AI is helping to achieve this across the board by catering content to different learning styles

Below are some examples of how AI is reshaping education, from early years right through to corporate training. 

Next generation learning

Primary school teachers have an immense responsibility when it comes to supporting children’s cognitive development. However, issues from funding to large class sizes can make it difficult to address the specific needs of each young pupil. Schools such as Slackwood Elementary in New Jersey are starting to see great results with machine learning-powered teaching assistants such as Happy Numbers, which has helped to improve the benchmark math scores of first grade students.  

Beyond the classroom, Sesame Street partnered with IBM Watson to create the first AI-powered vocabulary learning app. The app observes a child’s current reading ability and vocabulary range, then creates tasks and exercises to support their continued learning at the right pace.  

While in the case of children the goal would never be for a bot to fully replace a human teacher, tools that help the next generation reach their full potential are clearly an invaluable use case for AI.  

Campus coaching

When young learners progress to higher education, they can continue to benefit from AI-enabled tools both for supporting their studies and enhancing their overall experience. This year the University of Staffordshire introduced Beacon, a chatbot designed to help students access a variety of useful information, from timetables and societies to advice on how to reduce their taxes.  

According to Jason Harley of the University of Alberta’s Department of Educational Psychology, “AI has the potential to be a game-changer. ” He notes that university can be stressful for students who lack formal opportunities to improve their studying strategies and that AI, “could improve students’ grades and their experiences by referring them to support and resources they might not be aware of.” Again, while the aim is not for AI tools or bots to replace human tutoring; by providing an additional layer of support, students can more easily access the extra coaching they need to succeed. 

Corporate culture

As graduates enter the workplace and more seasoned professionals pursue their career paths, Learning & Development programs can be instrumental in maximizing employee engagement. Beyond mandatory health and safety programs, companies looking to attract, retain and nurture talent need to prioritize training to ensure teams feel motivated and valued. Once again, personalization is one of the key benefits that AI can deliver for corporate training, by tailoring programs based on a person’s job role, education and learning style. Sourcing and building customized content with the help of intelligent tools can help employees learn quickly, efficiently and with focus that allows them to perform tasks while progressively learning on the job. 

Opening doors with AI

It’s predicted that by 2024, nearly half of all learning management tools will be AI-enabled. The adoption of AI both in the formal education sector and in corporate training is enabling more flexible, adaptive learning that’s tailored to the individual, for a better chance of success. 

AI tools will always rely on human input and in the case of education, the goal is to support and supplement learning – while also making it more accessible to those with limited resources. AI is already helping people of all ages overcome barriers to develop skills and knowledge, fulfill their potential and subsequently, open new doors of opportunity.