The education industry, while scrutinized for sometimes being slow to adapt to changes experienced outside of the physical confines of a classroom or lecture hall, finds itself at the center of Artificial Intelligence (AI) discussions. Like most industries, AI has created a set of forced choices in the wake of data purporting a professional base of employees, not all of whom will be human over the next decade.
International Data Corporation’s (IDC) research notes that worldwide spending on AI-Centric systems will surpass $300 Billion by 2026. Furthermore, according to IDC forecasts, the continued integration of AI into various products and services looks to grow CAGR by 26.5% between 2022-2026.
As Michael Horn shared with Forbes late last year, many notable educational voices support a gradual restructuring of the industry, addressing the current and forecasted needs of all stakeholders. “I’m advocating for overthrowing the current education system incrementally. But this needs to be done thoughtfully if it is to be successful,” he says. “Not only are teachers, principals and support, and professional staff exhausted from three years of disrupted schooling, it’s impossible to shield them from the day-to-day pressures of ‘school’ long enough for them to dismantle the old structure and invent a new one.”
The new educational experience with AI now includes ChatGPT causing many in education to choose sides. Alice Dailey, chair of the Academic Integrity Program at Villanova University, has been tasked with formulating an approach that incorporates standard communication patterns between students and professors to navigate ChatGPT. “My guess is that there will be the development of some broad blanket policies that essentially say, unless you have permission from a professor to use AI tools, using them will be considered a violation of the academic integrity code,” Dailey says in Wired.
New Applications of AI Take Shape
It is understandable for AI to garner headlines evoking the glitz of the technology. However, industries, including education, are also looking for applications of AI to relieve a burdened infrastructure in need of assistance to relieve systemic pressures impacting logistics and human capital.
The education industry is one space where it is easy to get overworked. From those at the administrative level to teachers and students, there are many moving parts that must work in harmony to keep the service of education productive. The consequence of keeping the proverbial boat afloat is reflected in the burnout and turnover rates in the profession.
K-12 teachers recorded the highest burnout rate of all industries, according to a 2022 U.S. Gallup poll. Over 40% of educators reported feelings of burnout most or all of the time. Consequently, teachers are leaving the profession and considering other options. Between February 2020 and May 2022, roughly 300,000 teachers resigned from public schools nationwide.
Like education, the healthcare industry has seen similar results with its respective members. As a result, AI has been viewed as an onramp to ease current stressors for its respective workforce.
UNESCO has taken a prominent position in the discussion to more fully understand the opportunities and impacts of integrating AI into the policy and practice of education across the globe, calling for a human-centered approach to AI.
The benefits of AI as a facilitator of innovation and growth have been documented throughout various industries. Yet the question of [AI] application remains for burgeoning industries touting endless possibilities.
This sentiment surrounding AI in education is echoed by experts outside the industry, like Karthik Ravi, who have experienced its benefits firsthand. Ravi is a former Facebook employee and serves as the Chief Product Officer of Trymata. It [Trymata] is a product and marketing analysis tool powered by an AI engine that threads together different types of user data and feedback to gain holistic insight for marketing, sales, and product design teams.
“In our business model, implementing AI solutions have helped us uncover unprecedented insights at scale and at a granular level for our digital and marketing teams to make invaluable decisions concerning our clients’ digital products,” says Ravi.
“This is possible with education as well. How learning is evaluated, delivered, and supervised, the entire educational ecosystem can be revamped and optimized at scale and on a case-by-case basis with the power of AI.”
AI Interests Expand Use Cases
The prospects of an education industry with full AI implementation have become more realistic since the pandemic receded from view, but some bottlenecks still stand in the way.
If the sector is to fully embrace AI to manage classrooms, will the industry support district-wide implementations to support infrastructure needs? One indicator to monitor is higher education’s effort to modify educational opportunities for students who will very quickly enter the professional ranks with AI expertise in hand.
Minerva University President Michael Magee recently shared his perspective with this reporter for a podcast noting new approaches to comprehensive AI education. “We have an AI lab in Tokyo through a partnership with the Masason Foundation. Minerva has had about 40 students participate in the lab. And one of the things of great interest to them [students] is AI safety and AI ethics,” says Magee.
Magee believes that practical student experiences will support critical examinations of AI applications today and into the future. Magee adds, “Absent some moral compass, students will graduate into professionals who can help companies think about how to shape AI so that it serves good purposes and helps all sectors overcome some of the challenges facing humanity instead of causing more challenges.”
Trymata’s CEO, Ritvij Gautam, insists that having a unified AI solution in any industry far outweighs the benefits of these standalone components of AI integration. “We could see how companies gathered user feedback affected the depth of holistic insight they received about their product’s digital experience. There were too many tools in the market: Hotjar, Fullstory, Google Analytics, UserTesting, and more,” he says.
According to Gautam, each tool gathered and handled data differently, and each tool’s insights were often extremely siloed. Gautam offers an interesting analogy. “It’s basically like the popular story of the five blind men who touched different parts of an elephant and came up with vastly different and equally inaccurate answers about what they were touching,” he says. “Our answer was to merge our product analysis and user testing tools into one AI-powered engine that enabled our customers to uncover an end-to-end view of their product experience. Not just snippets of information that are extrapolated from inaccurately.”
The use of one tool can be cost-effective, according to Guatum, but he points to additional benefits found in a holistic perspective on learning and teaching. “It encourages stakeholders in the education space to create frameworks and policies to inspire and guide how AI can educate all industries on the future of learning and work,” he adds.
The jury may still be deliberating the value proposition of AI in everyday life. However, professional sectors, including the talent pipeline of education, are beginning to push the throttle on AI integration into policy, practice, logistics, and learning.
The application of AI in real-world corporate environments may serve as a window into the role education plays in the near term in both K-12 and higher education.
Horn, Gautam, Dailey, and Magee represent a cross-section of invested professionals actively engaging in new ways for all of us to interact seamlessly with technology. Time will tell how accustomed generations will assimilate to a world where professional colleagues may or may not be human in the not-too-distant future.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.