Putting the ‘Tech’ in EdTech With AI

Putting the ‘Tech’ in EdTech With AI

In science fiction, sometimes AI protects people. Sometimes, it harms them. Rarely did the masters of these fictional works think about how it could help people learn everything from new languages to navigating the world of international business.

The role of artificial intelligence in education is not some plot discussed in science fiction novels or academic journals. No. It’s happening right now. Today, AI is making tangible waves in the EdTech sector, presenting both promising solutions and complex challenges to the educators of tomorrow.

Maria Chmir, CEO and founder of Rask AI, and Patrick Mullane, Executive Director of HBS Online, recently chatted about AI. They discussed how AI is already disrupting education, why educators at all levels must upskill in AI awareness, and how AI can dramatically increase the reach and efficacy of educational offerings for students, lifelong learners, and professionals.

AI Is a Transformative Force in Education

AI technologies have become more sophisticated and increasingly integrated into learning and development settings. From preschool to postgraduate, AI’s potential to transform how we learn can’t be understated. 

“There are three kinds of elements to AI. There's teaching about it, there's using it in your teaching. And then there's using it for all of the activities,” said Patrick.

The Three Elements of AI in Education

One of the most impactful uses of AI in education is the ability to create personalized learning paths for students. 

Adaptive learning platforms use AI to analyze a student's learning patterns, preferences, and performance to tailor educational content that provides the right level of challenge and support. This can lead to a deeper understanding of the material.

He added, “We have started to fold it into our online programs in a way that provides students with what we would call a tutor bot. It gives students the opportunity to have a companion alongside them in the course.”

AI's data analysis capabilities are a game-changer for educators. Machine learning algorithms can process large amounts of educational data to provide insights into student progress, early warning signals for potential issues, and predictions for future performance trends.

Teachers with this information can make more informed decisions about their instructional approach and offer targeted support.

Supporting Students with Special Needs

For students with learning disabilities, AI offers revolutionary tools. 

For example, natural language processing can provide students with real-time feedback on language use, sentence structure, and grammar, aiding in the development of written communication skills. 

AI-powered communication devices also offer additional support, allowing students with speech impairments to communicate more effectively.

Educators Should Focus on Understanding AI

For AI to truly fulfill its potential in education, educators themselves need to become versed in AI concepts and applications. From K-12 teachers to university professors, understanding AI is becoming as integral to teaching as mastery of subject content.

Know the capabilities of the technology. This involves at least some basic knowledge about machine learning, neural networks, and how this software operates within the context of EdTech. 

To go a step further, professional development opportunities should be provided to help educators bridge the AI knowledge gap.

The artificial intelligence industry changes just as fast as business and education. These changes can send shockwaves through various sectors as people adjust. 

New applications are continually being developed. Educators need to stay current with AI trends and remain flexible in their approach to integrating AI into their teaching methods.

Bridging Gaps in Course Translation

Patrick Mullane
Executive Director, Harvard Business School Online
We're very proud of the fact that the completion rates for our programs are right around 90%, which is very high. The uniqueness of the courses we built on a custom platform really works well. And people like it. But I think we can make it a lot better by using insights from AI.


, stated Patrick.

AI-driven translation tools are transforming the way educational content is digested. These tools go beyond simple word-for-word translations, employing machine learning to understand context and idiomatic expressions for more accurate interpretations.

Both direct-to-consumer and business-to-business educational offerings can benefit from AI translation services. Providers can reach a wider, global audience, and language is no longer a barrier to workplace learning and development.

The Challenges

Despite the potential benefits, integrating AI into education is not without its challenges. These include concerns about privacy, the digital divide, and how to measure the effectiveness of AI-based education.

The use of AI in education requires thoughtful consideration of student privacy. Educators and policymakers need to prove student data is secure and that AI-driven systems comply with privacy regulations.

AI technologies often rely on access to digital devices and high-speed internet. This is something many people in the world don’t have. Addressing this digital divide will provide equal access to AI-powered educational tools.

The Opportunities Lie in Knowing the Limits of What AI Can Do

Determining AI's true impact on educational outcomes is complex. Ongoing research and evaluation are necessary to understand how AI can best support learning and which applications are most effective.

This is especially true with using AI on the business side of course creation. 

Patrick broke it down, saying,

Patrick Mullane
Executive Director, Harvard Business School Online
You have to consider all of the other things surrounding the course. The context. Then, marketing. Then the process somebody uses to apply and register for a course. Customer support. Who's going to answer a question? AI can certainly help with this. Gone are the days when you needed to have ten different people who spoke multiple languages. But that said, there's not always perfect solutions for all those things yet.


He’s right. AI isn’t perfect. It’s easy to forget that it’s a tool. A resource. It doesn’t have all the answers. It’s not supposed to.

The Best Tool for Your Job May Be AI

Integrating artificial intelligence into the educational landscape presents a promising frontier that holds the potential to revolutionize learning and teaching. 

From creating personalized learning experiences and supporting students with special needs to empowering educators with actionable insights and bridging language gaps, AI has shown its ability to profoundly enrich the educational experience. 

Educators' willingness to familiarize themselves with AI technology and remain adaptable to its evolving nature is crucial for harnessing its full potential. As we stand on the brink of this educational transformation, AI is showing that it’s an invaluable resource capable of shaping the future of education for the better. 

The journey ahead involves continuous learning, adaptation, and innovation. But, the promise of making education more accessible, engaging, and effective for all is a goal well worth pursuing.

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