Role of AI & ML in defining the future of e-learning

Role of AI & ML in defining the future of e-learning

Computer science as a subject has gain popularity over the last few decades and in today’s world, due to impact of COVID-19, it has become an essential component of a student’s life in school & college as well as professionals as all types of jobs today require some understanding of computer science.

But from April of 2020 to now, a lot has changed around us and our dependency on our computers and mobile phones has drastically increased. As per the latest research report published by App Annie “In a stay-at-home year for billions of people, the app habit grew stronger in all markets analyzed. The global average time spent was 4.2 hours a day, up 30% compared to two years prior.”

For school and college students, this meant increased usage of online learning apps and websites. As per Google trends data worldwide the highest searches for the term “online learning” happened in April 2020 (see the chart below) and since then online learning has become a part of our education system.

Google trends data
      Source: Google Trends last 5 years data of worldwide searches for “online learning”


Now the next question that arises about how are these online learning apps and websites able to support the increased demand overnight? We know the education system followed by schools and universities around the world is significantly different for different grade levels, subjects and students. So how are these online apps and websites functioning and supporting the newly increased demand?

The answer to this question is that most of the online learning platforms leverage smart technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to offer a customized and engaging learning environment to students of all ages.


Let’s understand quickly what is AI and ML?

Do you know what makes us (humans) unique and different from other animals on the planet?

Among many differences, some major ones that have helped humans reach the highest level of food chain are ability to critically think, problem solving, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning and decision making based on past experiences and environment. But as humans we have limitations, which means we have limited memory and processing big data manually is time consuming and error prone. That’s where the role of AI and ML comes into play.

In simple words, AI and ML help us unlock that next level of potential through knowledge of computers.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer, or a robot to do tasks that are usually done by humans because they require human intelligence and discernment and machine learning is a branch of Artificial Intelligence that allows computers and robots to learn, interpret and self-educate itself based on big data and experiences gained over time. It also allows computers and robots to react and respond in ways that are very close to human behavior.

Over the last decade the use of AI and ML has increased in all major industries around the world and all of us have interacted with AI and ML in different ways. Some common examples from our day-to-day life are:

1. Speaking to our smart phones such as Siri and Google assistants to play our favorite song.
2. Talking to a conversational bot for getting answers to our questions. All major banking chain like Bank of America are using conversational bot to automate admin work and bring efficiencies at reduced cost.
3. Managing our emails that land automatically into the primary, promotional or spam folders.
4. Selecting movies based on recommendations offered by Netflix or amazon prime apps.

Similarly, realizing the important and benefits of these SMART technologies, schools and universities around the world have adopted smart tools and technology to conduct classes online. Even with schools opening in different parts of the world, blended learning has become a part of the curriculum.

Top 3 benefits of AI & ML to students:

1. Personalized and customized learning experience

One of the biggest advantages of using AI-based solutions is their ability to adapt and personalize the content based on students’ current knowledge level and interest.

For a visual learner, AI based apps can easily switch to using images, videos and graphs and hence help student learn faster and retain information for a longer duration.

Also, AI based learning platforms can help students strengthen their weak areas by providing suggestions and courses based on the past test scores.

2. Reliable outside classroom support available to students

This is another big advantage for families with both parents working full time. With AI based platforms, now parents don’t have to worry about helping their child with algebra homework or getting them ready for their SAT tests. From homework assistance to test preparations, AI tutors and chatbots can do an excellent job.

Also, in case if a child missed a school day then catching up on the concept becomes easily and one doesn’t have to rely on notes from friends.

3. More engaged learning leading to fewer drop-outs

As per the latest research published in October 2021 by Carnegie Mellon University, engaging students through interactive activities, discussions, feedback and AI-enhanced technologies resulted in improved academic performance compared to traditional lectures, lessons or readings.

The research findings showcase a strong correlation between mind and heart. For active learning, a students not only includes their mind but also is better supported emotionally and socially and hence learns faster.

Future of education supported by AI & ML

The research released by Fortune Business Insights in 2021 shows that the global machine learning market is projected to grow from $15.50 billion in 2021 to $152.24 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 38.6% and below chart breaks down the growth rate by each year till 2028. So all of us will see the use of smart technologies in the education industry also.

North America Machine Learning Market Size

But with all the benefits that AI and ML together offer to the education industry, there is still a long way for us to go as there as still many major gaps at least with regards to predictions and projections provided by these smart technologies but with more and more investment and funding available, scientists and engineers will be able to remove this gap in the near future. To bring more accuracy to the prediction done by these tools we need to understand and draw the same patterns as used by humans today. To make better and more accurate predictions, we rely on information available to us about small to large events from our day-to-day life, past events and experiences from others. Same logic will have to be applied with ML, which means we will have to be able to feed as many data points about a student life to the machine as possible so that it can base the recommendations and adjust its behavior in the most optimal way and push the user to improve academic results.

This change will mean that students will start to become more independent learner from a very young age, more and more learners will switch to online mode of learning from anytime, anywhere and for teachers the role will change from handling admin work, defining the curriculum to mentoring and coaching students and adding the human factor which a machine will not be able to mimic soon.

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