July 3, 2023
Author: Anthony Clemons, is a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Northern Illinois University and a Senior Training Manager in the corporate sector. For more information, visit his website and connect with him on LinkedIn.
Image credit: Midjourney
Over the past year, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has permeated numerous facets of our lives, reshaping sectors from healthcare to transportation, entertainment to commerce. One area where AI’s impact has been particularly transformative is education. AI tutoring, a rapidly growing facet of edtech, is revolutionizing traditional teaching models and pioneering the way toward more personalized, accessible, and effective learning experiences.
AI tutors, or intelligent tutoring systems, are computer systems leveraging AI to provide personalized instruction and feedback to learners. They’re designed to simulate the one-on-one learning experience that a human tutor provides but with the added advantages of scalability, accessibility, and customization that AI technology affords.
But what does all this mean in practice?
One of the most significant benefits of AI tutors is their ability to provide personalized learning experiences. Traditional classrooms often struggle with meeting the individual needs of each student due to class size and limited resources. AI tutors can help bridge this gap, offering tailored instruction based on the content being instructed and the learner’s strengths, weaknesses, learning preferences, and pace.
AI tutoring systems utilize machine learning algorithms to assess a learner’s performance and adapt instructions accordingly. Oftentimes, these “tutors” are in the form of chatbots that engage in either textual or auditory conversations with the learner. If a student encounters difficulty with a specific concept, the AI tutor can offer supplementary resources and exercises to facilitate mastery of the material. Conversely, if a student exhibits swift comprehension, the AI tutor can present more advanced tasks, ensuring continuous and optimized learning progress.
AI tutors can be accessed anytime, anywhere, offering a significant advantage for learners who might not have consistent access to human tutors. This feature also allows students to learn at their own pace, taking breaks when needed, and revisiting challenging concepts as often as necessary. In fact, Harvard University even announced this week that its popular Computer Science 50: Introduction to Computer Science (CS50) course will have a new learning tool at their disposal: artificial intelligence.
Starting this fall, students can use the course’s AI chatbot to detect code bugs, provide program design feedback, explain unfamiliar code, error messages, and answer questions. With AI support, students can reduce their debugging time and receive help in real-time. This helps increase the efficiency of learning computer science for the entire class.
A remarkable aspect of AI tutors is their capacity for continuous learning and improvement. As more students use these systems, AI algorithms can collect and analyze vast amounts of data about learners’ behavior and performance. This data can be used to refine the system’s teaching strategies, leading to progressively more effective instruction over time.
For example, AI tutors can learn to adapt instruction for each student according to individual needs and preferences. They may also be able to detect the emergence of common misunderstandings in a class and emerge as an AI teaching assistant, enabling educators to adjust their teaching strategies accordingly.
The proliferation of AI tutoring chatbots signals a technology-induced revolution in the education sector. However, the future of education is not a choice between AI and human teachers, but a blend of both. The human touch in education—be it passion, empathy, or the ability to inspire—is irreplaceable and remains central to the learning process.
AI tutors, such as the one developed by Harvard, offer a solution to alleviate the workload faced by teachers. By shouldering certain responsibilities, these AI tutors free up valuable time for teachers to concentrate on tasks requiring human judgment and interaction, such as mentoring, providing emotional support, and fostering a positive learning environment. This enables a more balanced and effective educational experience.
As we strive for continual innovation and advancement in these technologies, we can anticipate a future of learning that is remarkably inclusive, flexible, and adaptive. This holds incredible promise, particularly for students with special educational needs, empowering them to progress at their own pace and receive personalized support, shaping a truly tailored educational experience.