Love it or loathe it, the world is increasingly turning toward automation and artificial intelligence.
Machines are slowly but increasingly taking over traditional jobs making organizations and businesses working hard to find a purpose for the workers affected by this. According to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, roughly half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055. This is alarmingly interesting. The price of human progress, many say.
But what do you say is the next occupation to potentially end up on the ‘kill list’? Could ‘teaching’ be on that list? To be precise, will Artificial Intelligence replace teachers? Well, while AI in the education industry is at a very early stage, it is increasingly becoming the core focus of many education firms. In fact, there are already edtech companies that are working hard to replace humans with Artificial Intelligence. Well, in this article, we take a look at the current nature of AI’s role in education and whether it will at all replace teachers in the academic world.
Digitization of classroom
From personalized learning, to helping teachers with their teaching method and content, to automation of admin tasks and grading of students’ homework and tests, to replacing of physical teachers to teach students with machine-powered technology, Artificial Intelligence is truly beginning to revolutionize the education industry. It is not surprising that today’s classroom is no longer stranger to online teaching and adaptive learning software. There are a host of companies and software tools that are already making a huge impact in the education sector. To name just a few, Khan Academy’s AI identifies student strengths and learning gaps, and adjusts content accordingly; Adaptive assessment programs like MAP and SBAC are being used more and more to help tailor school curricula; Software like McGraw-Hill Connect and Aplia allow teachers to manage coursework for massive amounts of students at the same time. Besides the above mentioned ones, there are various other online learning programs that tout their ability to reach students in ways they cannot quite access in the traditional classroom.
Companies working to replace teachers with Artificial Intelligence
Whether they will ever be able to achieve their plan or not, there are already a host of startups that are working and developing software to replace teachers with Artificial Intelligence. Riiid, a South Korea-based edtech startup, is one among the list. This AI tutor solution, through its platform known as “santAIside” can predict how a user would answer questions. With the help of more than 30 researchers from various universities across the world, the company is trying to become an alternative to the traditional way of schooling, and its creators are aiming for it to replace all workbooks and lecturers in this modern era.
Beijing-based VIPKID, an English-language education platform that connects students in China to teachers in the USA and Canada through online classes, is another. VIPKID’s AI teaching assistant allows classes, and even homework, to be personalized to each student, helping capture the pupil’s attention and drive their performance.
Liulishuo, an AI-driven educational technology company based in Shanghai, is also another that is working to replace teachers with Artificial Intelligence. Its self-developed Artificial Intelligence English teacher, based on deep learning technology, can provide personalized and adaptive language learning courses for each user. Unlike VIPKID, Liulishuo doesn’t provide AI-assistance to human teachers; instead, it uses AI to create completely virtual educators.
Things Artificial Intelligence can’t do
While there may be many good and positive things that Artificial Intelligence has and can do for education, there are many things/areas that AI can’t do or replace a human teacher. It is said that human beings learn best from emulating and practicing with other human beings. For instance, the teacher in the classroom is a human model of mastery for a particular subject, with skills and values that are uniquely human. So a student wouldn’t simply relate to AI with the same capacity. While computers are capable of levels of calculations we could only dream of achieving with our minds alone, they can never inspire learners as a human educator would.
Having lacked many connections, robots simply can’t inspire us. Inspiration is a product of empathy, and empathy has a lot to do in the learning process, even though we often underestimate the importance of it. But despite incredible advances in the field, empathy is the heart of the limitation to AI. Human teachers, on the other hand, when they can connect to a student by having ‘been there’, they can inspire them to learn, create, and excel. However, even AI with state-of-the-art face rendering technology can’t accurately put to practice all of these variables.
We can read a student’s face, body language, appearance, and any other pieces of data to infer an emotional state of a student. We are also able to cross-reference that inference with context like how does the student usually respond to lessons, what is going on at home, did they eat breakfast, did they sleep well, did they fight with someone, etc. While we can use our intuition and create a solution for that student, even the most impressive or sophisticated AI would still struggle to do that. Simply put, the context of knowing each individual student holistically and assessing the richness and complexity of a ‘classroom moment’ is simply out of reach for AI.
Coming to the main theme, is Artificial Intelligence replacing teachers soon?
So teachers, should you start packing up your desk? Of course not. But while chances are that your job is safe for the near future, it is definitely going to change, and AI is going to be a part of that transition. For what AI lacks in its empathetic abilities, it certainly makes up for in its pure computing power, simplicity of interface, and information storage capabilities. Artificial Intelligence has already been applied in education that helps students develop skills and teachers with testing system. It can help fill needs gaps in learning and teaching and allow schools and teachers to do more than ever before. AI can drive efficiency, personalization, streamline admin tasks, and many more.
However, no matter how advanced technology has or may become, I believe Artificial Intelligence can never replace the role of a teacher. Teachers are not only to impart knowledge but also to invest in emotions, use their own ideas and experience to guide students and help them grow. But yes, by bringing together the best attributes of machines and human teachers, AI can definitely do wonders for the best outcome for students. Interestingly, a recent research report has suggested that Artificial Intelligence in education market is expected to expand at a CAGR of +31% during 2019-2027.