Education Technology Services

How conversational AI is shaping the education sector?

Are you an example of conversational AI?

Yes, I am an example of conversational AI. I am a large language model developed by OpenAI that is trained to understand and generate human-like text. I am able to respond to a wide range of questions and prompts, and can assist with tasks such as answering questions, providing resources, and even having a conversation. I am one of the most advanced examples of conversational AI currently available, and can be used in a variety of applications including customer service, education, and entertainment.

The above is a fragment of a conversation I had with ChatGPT from OpenAI. AI-driven business models and ways of living, working and learning are springing up everywhere around us. Conversational AI, such as ChatGPT, are revolutionising many sectors, including, as ChatGPT mentioned, education.

What is conversational AI?  Powered by natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML), conversational AI (con-AI) is a technology to simulate human-like conversation. Processing  inputs via text or voice, computers respond in human language (a technology known as Natural Language Generation - NLG), interacting through voice or text. The AI uses a technique known as dialogue management to control the flow of the conversation, keeping track of the context to ensure it responds to the human input in a meaningful way. Think Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant engaged in a conversation with you rather than just giving Google Search-like responses to specific questions.

Language learning is one early adopter area where con-AI is thriving already. Think of chatbots such as Duolingo, Rosetta Stone and Lingoda that provide conversation practice with native speakers. Millions of learners around the world are logging into such bots.

Now think schools and colleges. How can we use this technology in education? While educationists may initially baulk at integrating this technology in day-to-day learning, fearing plagiarism and worse, it doesn’t take a large stretch of imagination to envision the large number of possibilities con-AI can usher into schools, making learning accessible and personalised for each student.

Students can crush homework. Just the way students have integrated laptops, smartphones and planners in their learning toolkit, the students of the coming years shall integrate chatbots for help with their homework, to answer questions and provide feedback on their writing. ChatGPT’s creator OpenAI has several GPT-3 based AI tutors such as Cognii, Gradescope, and Kuki in the market. Studybot, an open source Discord bot, is another example of a chatbot that helps students with flashcards, quizzes and study material. MyMaths Bot and My Study Life are other examples in this genre.

AI-powered teaching assistants can support teachers. Chatbots can assist teachers in securing information, resources, schedule appointments and even grade assignments - many already are. AI teaching assistants can evaluate students’ progress, delivering personalised feedback and suggesting relevant content iteratively along the student’s learning journey.

Zooming out beyond students and teachers, con-AI can help school administrators to automate routine tasks such as answering frequently asked questions from students and parents, scheduling appointments, and providing information about school events and policies. Con-AI can assist school leaders in better understanding the needs of their students and parents by analysing data from conversations and providing insights that can inform decision making. Student engagement can be improved by providing personalised support. Scenarios that use con-AI in student counselling and mental health support are not far-fetched.

Is this the education as we know it? Yes and no. It will sound the death-knell for rote learning and regurgitation of information, and passing exams ‘by the book’. It will usher in an empowered way of education, where tools including chatbots are used as assistants, and students focus on debate, dialogue and conversation with their peers and professors that will truly help them gain the 21st century skills necessary to thrive in the workplace of tomorrow. Yes, plagiarism checkers that check against ChatGPT-derived essays exist already!

Education systems shall evolve to integrate con-AI. While students may use chatbots to get answers to questions, the educational systems can evolve to not test students on information, but rather on their communication, critical thinking and higher-order ‘human’ skills. 

These use cases illustrate the wide range of opportunities to evolve the education sector by using conversational AI technology. Innovators and visionary educationists are thinking of these possibilities, and more, and ideating on the future schools that will educate tomorrow’s children.

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