The Future of Vocational Learning and Artificial Intelligence | Ufi Charitable Trust

The Future of Vocational Learning and Artificial Intelligence

AI systems are here and their prevalence is growing every day

AI software can effectively tutor students in well-defined subject areas, such as those that are routinely part of the school, college or university curriculum. These systems can provide highly adaptive and personalised learning tools that help students to gain an understanding of the basics of a subject in a way that suits each individual learner. The AI does not get tired of helping a student go over areas of difficulty time and time again, and the AI can also help students who are able to move forward quickly to progress with speed.

In addition to helping students understand the basics, AI can also help them construct the stepping stones on which teachers can build to help students gain a deeper understanding of what knowledge is, where it comes from, and how we decide what we do and don’t believe. Examples of such AI software include; 

Alelo’s experiential language learning driven by virtual role play simulations.

UK-based Century Tech that uses Machine Learning to track interactions through mouse movements and keystrokes to build up a detailed understanding of how each student is progressing. The information can then be shared with teachers, students and parents. 

A teacher's role cannot be automated though AI

These AI driven educational systems provide an excellent complement to a human teacher’s role, which can focus on the teaching and mentoring that cannot be automated through AI.

AI can also help students to develop the important skills and capabilities they will need in the AI augmented workplace. For example, AI can support humans to learn to be better at working together to solve problems through:

  • Adaptive group formation.
  • Expert facilitation. 
  • Virtual agents.
  • Intelligent Moderation.

See Betty’s Brain for an example of an AI system that engages students in working together to teach an artificially intelligent virtual student to understand a misconception.

AI is at home in the #VocTech space

AI is as at home in the vocational education space and the workplace as it is in the classroom or lecture hall. Work based training systems can, for example, make excellent use of AI driven recommendation engines to help employees access the training they need when they need it. There is great potential for AI to support people throughout their learning life course with ‘just-in-time’ learning individualised to their needs, accessible through multiple interfaces from voice activated technology, to virtual and simulated environments and physical computing embedded within our world.

We must ensure our AI is built within an ethical framework

There are risks as well as benefits when it comes to AI. For example, we must ensure that we don’t allow these technologies to ‘dumb us down’, because in fact we need to be even smarter to make the best advantage of our artificially intelligent colleagues and tutors. We must also ensure that our AI is built within an ethical framework that ensures the protection of the vulnerable, that embraces diversity and that is constantly evaluated and developed to ensure that it is fit for purpose in this fast-moving space. And we must ensure that we recognize and value our human intelligence, that we continue to develop our intelligence and that we focus on blending our artificial and our human intelligence to solve the educational challenges that need to be solved to ensure that everyone can access the learning and training they need. In addition to using AI to help us be smarter, we also need everyone to understand enough about AI to ensure that they can use it effectively and that they can make well informed decisions about how and when they engage with AI and what they allow the AI to do. We will still need some people to understand the technical details and skills to develop the next generation of AI systems, but this is a small percentage of the population and probably fewer than the number of people we need to understand enough about AI to develop the ethical and regulatory frameworks and legal mechanisms that will help to protect society.

Blog by Ufi Trustee Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner Centred Design at the UCL Knowledge Lab

This was the first in a series of blogs from Ufi Trustees.

Connect with Rose on Twitter here.

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