When I got into my car this morning my sat nav asked me if I was going to the station. It is intelligent and has learnt which days I take that route.
Businesses are also using artificial intelligence (AI) to great effect. West London’s College has recently installed an intelligent chatline on its website. This chatbot uses predictive text to recognise a question before the user has finished typing it. It then searches its database for similar questions and the answers provided by college staff before providing an answer without human intervention. Over time, it is building a database of questions and validated answers that will eventually mean human intervention is only needed when unusual questions are asked. It hasn’t learned all the answers yet – it has to learn to walk before it can run. But it grows in confidence and accuracy every day.
Will robots replace teachers?
According to a recent paper presented to world leaders at Davos, over the next few years we can expect AI to impact the world of business, education and training. Thomas Frey of the DaVinci Institute predicts that, over the next few years, robots are set to replace teachers, lecturers, tutors and assessors in many learning situations.
Frey doesn’t predict they will be replaced totally, or that practical skills like plumbing or bricklaying don’t need practical experience on site, but he does predict that AI will assess those taking courses, assess how they learn best and deliver a course totally tailored to their specific needs. There are indications that people learning via AI learn four to ten times faster than by conventional means. Gone will be the days where teaching proceeded based on the average ability of the whole class. Everything will be tailored to the individual.
At West London’s College we recognise the strengths and weaknesses of the use of AI. We know that it will make an increasingly huge impact on the courses we offer. For example we predict the end of course start and finish dates predicated on term dates. If everyone learns at their own pace, such dates are archaic. If you work shifts and you need to train at 3am on Sunday it presents no problems.
We also know that with the tutor being freed up from routine they will be able to offer individualised support at times suited to the individual. Couple this with AI and we predict improved exam successes and more productive staff.
An era where cheating exams is impossible
Exams have always been a problem. You have to get all the candidates in a room at the same time and provide invigilators. If a student is ill on the day they have to wait until the next exam dates. Work with our partners, e-Careers, demonstrates how this is changing. They now use intelligent software with eye tracking capability during exams. Coupled with plagiarism technology this means we are entering an era when cheating will be impossible. So with AI exams can also potentially take place at a time and place to suit the individual.
Like all new technologies this is disruptive. It will not happen overnight and some will oppose it. But if Frey is correct, it will transform our educational journeys and working lives.
Stefan Drew is a marketing consultant currently working with West London’s College. He is a regular contributor to the international media where he is introduced as The Marketing Magician. To learn more about West London’s College visit www.wlc.ac.uk