AI Powered Learning – Can It Help Address The Crisis In Education?

More and more teachers are abandoning careers, record numbers of students are missing from classrooms altogether and there is an upward trend of higher education drop-outs.
 
It’s time to explore whether artificial intelligence (AI) can help solve this problem! AI might be able to take on some tasks currently to alleviate some of the teaching workload and help with under-performance during class due to lack of engagement.
 
Before exploring AI, let’s look at the problem a bit closer.
 
Teacher

Why are teachers leaving in droves?

As the academic terms winds down towards summer, many teachers and lecturers are exhausted. It’s been another challenging year. A frustration repeated time and time again relates to the administration burden on staff having to cope with a hybrid teaching model. The Times Education supplement recently reported that “More than three in four school staff experienced symptoms of poor mental health linked to their work” worryingly, this is replicated across education generally. Add to this the teacher recruitment crisis. A recent report by the National Foundation for Education Research highlighted the recruitment issues in education, so it is not surprising that in April, The Guardian reported that “44% of teachers in England plan to quit within five years”.

Unprecedented numbers of young people turn their back on education

According to the Children’s Commissioner, hundreds of thousands of “ghost children” have still not returned to school. It is particularly concerning that the Centre for Social Justice reported that before March 2022, 13,000 pupils in exam-critical years were missing from the system and the latest figures published by Education DataLab suggest that 5% of pupils were severely absent from September to May of this year.

These are terrifying statistics which should be ringing loud alarm bells. Surely something needs to be done, and quickly.

The case for AI in Education

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, it is becoming more widely used in various industries, including education. There are many benefits of using AI in education, such as improving students’ learning outcomes and helping teachers become more efficient.

The VR Hive team are passionate about finding solutions. Founder and CEO, Anne Widdop believes that AI may hold part of the answer. She said ‘after Covid struck, everyone I knew had kids or students at home trying to learn with what is, quite frankly, material not fit for distance learning. They were having to endure passive and disengaging materials and long and exhausting video calls’. She continued ‘many of my friends, who are teachers or lecturers, are at their wits end trying to find solutions. They are some of the most dedicated people I know and it saddens me that many have had enough and want out’.

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on teaching, learning and assessments world-wide. An estimated 87% (or 1.5bn) of the world’s children are learning at home, Colleges, Universities and training centres are having to find new ways to deliver courses online. This is a sustained trend and the outlook is one of continued disruption. Both education and government are investing in technological solutions to improve distance learning and several reports, like The Logan Report highlight the need for change.

Focus on Meta-Skills

To put the work in the company in context, The VR Hive is focusing on meta (or soft/transferrable) skills. Recent research put meta skills at the top of the list of enterprise training priorities, with “making time for learning” cited as the biggest training obstacle.

People skills, such as leadership, communication, collaborative problem-solving and interpersonal awareness, are critical to fostering teamwork and the kind of high-engagement, safe, respectful and inclusive workplace that attracts and retains top talent. Meta skills help eliminate the liabilities of a toxic work culture and empower organisations to lead the way in productivity and innovation. Such skills are core competencies expected of managers and leaders, but are equally important for anyone working with others.

While traditional e-learning can effectively impart facts and concepts, the experiential and performance-based practice employed to change interpersonal behaviour are typically obtained in person, under the guidance of a skilled facilitator. However, such training is often cost prohibitive, especially when teams are geographically distributed.

Outwith the significant challenges faced due to Covid-19, as far as workplace training is concerned, the costs of stopping work to attend human-led training, even if delivered online, can exceed the cost of the training itself. Finding time for follow-up, with guided practice to reinforce new behaviours, is rare.

VR can reduce the overall need for expenses such as training facilities, time and travel. Unlike today’s soft skills training, which simply does not scale, VR-delivered training, as with other kinds of e-learning, can be self-paced to match the learner’s progress and schedule. It is scalable and offers consistently high-quality training at reduced costs, yet is more immersive, attractive and engaging.

The VR Hive provides a new and innovative offering to the market. Fundamental to The VR Hive is the integration of artificial intelligence. The aim is not to “take over” the role of teacher (because AI works in a way that is profoundly different from human intelligence) but to enhance the learning environment, provide more personal experiences and instant feedback. AI in Education has the potential to transform education in ways that can make education more human, not less.

Today, VR is used in a diverse array of training applications. These range from healthcare to developing procedural knowledge in medicine, to military and aerospace simulated environments.

Training applications use AI in a variety ways, but there are few examples which focus on meta/soft skills.

Based on extensive research, Anne Widdop believes that training, education and assessments need to evolve to:
  • Meet the learning needs and expectations of the older Gen Z (16+), or digital natives’, who do not thrive in passive forms of learning.

 

  • Reduce unnecessary screen time by providing shorter, engaging and effective learning. Students are currently spending too much time isolated with ineffective courses;

 

  • Provide alternatives to video conferencing training which is passive and causing fatigue;

 

  • Utilise AI to leverage innovative, formative and summative assessments in accredited qualifications;
  • Provide customised learning environments;

 

  • Improve course completion rates. Currently almost 90% of traditional online training is abandoned;

 

  • Provide multi-player interactive training (as opposed to click-through e-learning);

 

  • Improve knowledge retention and transference of learning. Currently only 33% show a performance improvement as a result of training;

 

  • Provide affordable and accessible training on simpler devices, minimising data usage.

Stay tuned as we publish our progress in finding solutions and explore ethical issues related to AI in education.