How Artificial Intelligence Is Disrupting the Education Industry

By Gene Swank

Artificial intelligence is transforming the relationship between corporations and their customers across virtually every market sector. From predictive analytics and data mining techniques to chatbots, AI is becoming a powerful tool for companies to learn more about their customers. While the benefits of learning as much as possible about your customer are obvious, what if those same techniques could be applied to identify and help the human brain learn more effectively? While this may at first seem like something out of a sci-fi novel, it may, in fact, be the future of modern education.

Classroom sizes are growing at a much faster rate than are school budgets. This can limit the individual interaction between students and teachers. Some experts claim that the strain on classroom resources in the U.S. may have led to the now all-time low proficiency in subjects such as math. The demand for a cheap educational solution that can supplement the child's time in a classroom makes the educational technology industry a market sector that begs to be disrupted.

E-learning is one of the fastest growing educational technology applications in the U.S., and, until recently, this market sector lacked the sophistication required to make a measurable impact on a student's academic performance. Both startups and industry veterans are beginning to use artificial intelligence to interact with the students and learn where they excel and where they need improvement.

Artificial intelligence can be used to analyze numerous data points that a teacher alone would not be able to measure. For example, let's look at a mathematical multiple choice question and what we can learn by analyzing the student's interaction. While an educator may look at the child's score, AI can dig much deeper and learn more about where the child is struggling. The AI can look at individual questions to determine if the student is struggling with the overall concept or perhaps if the verbiage in the question is just confusing. It is also sometimes more important to learn the wrong answers they selected versus what answers they got correct. Perhaps the question is related to an order of operations, in which case the AI can identify which step the student missed and essentially teach them the proper method.

Other data points, such as the speed in which the student answers the questions, can help determine if the student has truly mastered the subject or if they are simply making an educated guess. The artificial intelligence can also discretely look at how other children of the same age and grade answer a particular question and identify the usefulness of the very question itself. In some cases, the question may be poorly formatted, which ultimately leads to confusion. AI can also be used to interact with the students' parents and educators to alert them of trouble areas. Numerous data points can also be collected for future analysis as new advancements in learning science are made.

Children have more access to electronic devices than ever, and companies are capitalizing on this by creating advanced learning programs that gamify the learning process. Products such as ScreenTime Learning, of which I'm a co-founder and COO, marry decades of cognitive science research with cutting-edge predictive analysis and artificial intelligence. Children are presented with several short quizzes on their mobile devices that they must answer correctly before gaining access to their device. Their answers are analyzed and the difficulty of the questions is adjusted based on their aptitude.

Another great company using AI in the classroom is Century Intelligent Learning, which allows teachers to create curriculum online that students can access at any time. Century uses artificial intelligence to identify gaps in knowledge and recommends what topic the student should study next based on their aptitude. And TrueShelf was created by a former Princeton faculty member and claims to have an artificial intelligence engine that can create unlimited math questions. These questions are analyzed by their AI engine and a determination is made on the student's strengths and weaknesses.

By providing the student, their educator and their parents with a more accurate picture of their learning aptitude, the student has a competitive advantage. It is still my belief that nothing can replace a good old-fashioned teacher, but we must also acknowledge that the teacher is only as effective as the tools they have to work with. Artificial intelligence may soon become a permanent fixture in the classroom, as common even as a teacher's aide.


Gene Swank is COO of ScreenTime Solutions.

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