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Three Ways AI Helps Students Learn More Effectively Today

And Two Ways it Might Be Able to Help in the Future

Tags: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Article, Corporate

By: Dylan Arena
SVP, Chief Data Scientist, McGraw Hill School Group

With varying degrees of apprehension and excitement, educators everywhere are wading into the new world of teaching in the age of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). Questions abound: How can I help my students leverage GenAI tools like ChatGPT to learn more deeply instead of just using them to cheat? How can I personally use GenAI tools to be more effective and efficient? Where can I find guidance and best practices? How will education change over the next decade?

A longer-term perspective could provide some reassurance here. Although GenAI is the latest AI spectacle, the use of AI in education is not new. It has been used in many ways to support students and educators for several decades. Looking at how different applications of AI are helping students learn today might help us better envision a future with GenAI.

Here are three ways AI is already helping students learn:

1.     AI is predicting what students are ready to learn next.

Through a combination of smart assessment and analysis of historical data from student interactions with educational technology, machine learning, a subset of AI, can make extremely accurate predictions about what students are ready to learn next. This ensures students are learning within their zone of proximal development (instead of wasting time on concepts they already know or getting frustrated by topics they’re not ready for yet), which is a great way to make learning more personalized and motivating.

In McGraw Hill’s AI-driven ALEKS math learning platform, which has access to billions of anonymized data points on student interactions with the software, the AI can make accurate predictions 94% percent of the time.

2.      AI is making assessments more efficient.

Using a variety of AI tools, including deep-learning neural networks, during an assessment can more quickly identify a student’s knowledge state (basically, which concepts they already know and which ones they don’t understand yet). Such tools can reduce the amount of time students need to spend on assessments, giving them more time for learning and practice.

With the addition of deep-learning neural networks, McGraw Hill’s ALEKS reduced the amount of time students spend on assessment by more than 20%, which led to students mastering 9% more course material.

3.      AI is identifying students who need help as early as possible.

Well-trained AI, by accessing and making sense of large amounts of historical data, can recognize patterns in student use of educational software and alert educators to students who may be at risk of failing. By pushing alerts to educators, AI-powered software can give educators real-time insight into their students’ progress and help them intervene as needed.

ALEKS Insights uses AI to alert educators of students who may show signs of procrastination, cramming, sudden drops in learning, or other unusual patterns.

So where can GenAI take education from here?

GenAI offers new ways to personalize the learning experience, streamline the job of the educator, and even strengthen relationships between teachers and students.

How is GenAI different? “Generative AI refers to a category of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that generate new outputs based on the data they have been trained on. Unlike traditional AI systems that are designed to recognize patterns and make predictions, generative AI creates new content in the form of images, text, audio, and more.”

Source: World Economic Forum

Here are two areas of many where GenAI might be helpful:

1.      Expanding personalized tools into new domains

GenAI will open doors to creating intelligent tools that support students in powerful ways beyond the STEM subjects that have traditionally been “easier” to personalize with technology. Take writing. Within a digital personalized learning ecosystem that uses content and data insights to help students learn effectively and meet academic objectives, GenAI can be an additional tool used to give students real-time feedback and suggestions about their writing, while helping educators better understand the learners in their classes.

2.      Helping educators carve out more time for interaction with students

Learning is a fundamentally social experience. GenAI will provide exciting new opportunities for automating certain tasks that take up the time that educators could be spending on nurturing stronger relationships with their students. Using GenAI to assist with tasks like routine grading, interpreting assessment data, and adjusting lesson plans for individual students or last-minute schedule changes can help educators understand and address student needs in more depth and more quickly, freeing up time and energy to build and support the human relationships that are at the heart of learning.

Although our future with AI is not yet known, it’s important to focus on what matters most. In an article published earlier this year, McGraw Hill CEO Simon Allen wrote:

“Yes, GenAI is going to change the way we work and help us continue to improve the types of technologies we create to help students learn and teachers do their jobs. We’re only just beginning to explore the boundaries of what’s possible. But GenAI is not a panacea. It is another arrow in our quiver aimed at helping students succeed.”