The role of artificial intelligence in online learning

March 16, 2023

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become an essential part of modern life, offering increased efficiency and convenience across a variety of industries. In education, the integration of AI has led to exciting opportunities and valid concerns about how to effectively incorporate these tools into the classroom, particularly in remote learning environments. 

Among the most significant benefits of AI in online learning is its ability to personalize instructional materials, automate routine tasks, and create adaptive assessments. These tools have played a crucial role in supporting online learning, making virtual and often large courses more interactive and individualized. Virtual tutors, for example, can use natural language processing to understand student questions and provide guidance on specific topics, either through linear modules or conversational interactions that mimic human interaction. 

Adaptive learning platforms, such as those provided by Century and Educake, use data analysis to understand an individual student's learning style, strengths, and weaknesses in a subject. This information is then used to provide personalized feedback and instruction that is tailored to the student's needs, such as asking more questions about a topic where the student is struggling. 

AI can also be beneficial for teachers, as it can be used to grade assignments, write more relevant objectives, and even create courses. Through AI, manual and time-consuming processes like taking attendance and managing permissions can be automated, leaving more time for the instructors to teach and develop relevant materials. 

One of the most exciting recent advancements in AI is the emergence of virtual chatbots, like Microsoft's Bing, Google's Bard, and Open AI's Chat GPT, trained using a text database of more than 300 billion words, is one of the most pervasive of these new tools. A new version of Chat GPT, which was trained on trillions of words and images and can produce text outputs from both text and image inputs, was released earlier this week. 

While these chatbots offer comprehensive knowledge and human-like responses to written prompts, some are concerned that they may be a barrier to genuine learning, as students may rely too heavily on these tools to complete assignments without critically exploring their own ideas. 

The perception of AI tools and their uses varies widely, with some seeing them as disruptive technologies that must be understood and embraced to enhance the educational experience, while others have significant concerns about data security and privacy risks, including unexpected surveillance. In the latter cases, ensuring transparency about what data is being collected and protecting against breaches is critical in addressing these concerns. 

As AI-enabled tools become increasingly prevalent in education, it is essential that students and teachers alike learn how to incorporate these technologies into the learning process while using them appropriately. There are valid concerns about the potential for these tools to widen gaps in fairness, access, and learning. However, when used as a supplement to a student's own thinking and a teacher's workload, AI-enabled tools can help to broaden understanding, lower educational barriers, and stimulate engagement in online learning. Intent and context are key. 

Or, as Chat GPT states if you ask if it’s a help or hinderance to online education: 

“It's worth noting that while I can provide information and guidance, I cannot replace the expertise and guidance of a human teacher or mentor. It's important to use my responses as a starting point and to engage in further research and critical thinking to fully understand and apply the information presented. Ultimately, I believe that I can be a valuable tool in the pursuit of education, but it's up to the user to determine how best to utilize that tool.” 

If you want to explore how AI technologies like these can be used to transform online learning, check out Capitol Tech’s programs in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Data Science, and contact