In recent years the online learning industry has witnessed staggering growth, with the value of the eLearning market being predicted to hike to $374 billion by 2026, a 160% increase from $144 billion in 2019.
While the Covid pandemic contributed to a significant shift from traditional in-class teaching methods to modern, virtual classrooms, the more recent rapid advancements of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools and technologies into the eLearning market has advanced this rate even further.
The Artificial Intelligence In Education Market size specifically is expected to reach $173 billion by 2033, an increase from its current value of $3.68 billion in 2023.
As AI technologies continue to evolve, they are reshaping the way education is delivered, making it more accessible, personalized, and efficient than ever before.
In this article, we will explore the various ways in which AI is revolutionizing the online learning industry. We will also address the concerns surrounding AI taking over teaching and provide insights into how eLearning businesses can adapt to this new age of artificial intelligence.
The Rise of AI in Online Education
Artificial Intelligence has found its way into various aspects of online education, enabling educators and learners to benefit from its vast potential. It has proven to provide effective support for online learning and teaching, including personalizing learning for students, automating teachers’ routine tasks, and powering adaptive assessments.
Here are a few key areas where AI is making a significant impact.
1. Adaptive Learning
Adaptive learning is education software that is customized to each student individually.
AI-powered algorithms can analyze learner data and provide personalized learning recommendations, adapting the learning experience to meet individual needs and preferences. This can be done to the level that a particular student finds easiest to understand and can be completed in a self-set pace.
Adaptive learning platforms use data analysis to understand individual student 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.
By collecting and analyzing data on learners' progress, interests, and learning styles, AI algorithms can tailor content, pacing, and assessments with the aim of improved engagement and better outcomes.
Currently, adaptive learning models work better with a larger set of students that are working through the same course material, allowing a greater amount of comparable data to be collected at the same time. The measured progression can then inform AI to break down a textbook into a digestible study guide, with chapter summaries, practice tests, and flashcards, for example.
2. Intelligent Tutoring Systems
Intelligent tutoring systems are AI-powered solutions tailored to match each individual student’s needs and abilities.
Acting as a virtual tutor, this AI-driven system can provide real-time feedback, guidance, and support to learners. These systems leverage natural language processing and machine learning techniques to understand learners' queries, offer explanations, and help them overcome challenges.
Essentially, it mirrors a human coach in its ability to provide feedback, rephrase questions, and give detailed assessments of a student’s progress.
Intelligent tutoring systems create a personalized learning environment that mimics the benefits of one-on-one instruction. Implementing a system like this can cut costs dramatically while boosting the success rate at the same time.
These systems, at their best, don’t replace teachers but rather shift teachers closer to the role of mentor.
3. Automated Grading and Feedback
Taking the place of virtual facilitators, AI-powered grading systems streamline the assessment process by automating the grading of objective questions and providing immediate feedback to learners. This frees up educators' time, allowing them to focus on more meaningful aspects of teaching, such as providing qualitative feedback and interacting with students.
Virtual teaching assistants have been developed that can engage on a classroom’s online discussion forum by answering student questions alongside other human teaching assistants.
Further advancements in this space include programmed prototypes in virtual counselling, merging live classrooms with intelligent tutors, augmented reality, and virtual instructors.
There are a variety of AI systems that are expected to affect learner/instructor interactions in online learning, the effects thereof still vastly unknown. Some of these AI system experiments include:
- An AI teaching assistant named Jill Watson was developed to augment the instructor’s communication with students. Jill can autonomously respond to student introductions, post weekly announcements, and answer routine, frequently asked questions.
- An AI scoring system was created that allows faster communication of grades between students and the instructor.
- AI systems that support both students and instructors by providing constant feedback on how students learn and the progress they are making towards their learning goals.
- Online adaptive quizzes have been developed to support students by providing learning content tailored to each student’s individual needs, which improved student motivation and engagement.
- Virtual avatars have enabled physically separated users to collaborate in an immersive virtual environment by increasing a sense of presence.
- A team developed AI facial analytics to improve instructors’ presence as a coach in technology-mediated learning environments.
- Chatbots with Artificial Intelligence systems can guide students with personalized, just-in-time feedback or assistance. These chatbots can answer questions about course content or structure. This helps students keep track of their own learning while keeping them engaged.
4. Natural Language Processing
AI algorithms equipped with natural language processing (NLP) capabilities can analyze text-based content, discussion forums, and even essays to identify patterns, assess sentiment, and extract valuable insights.
This technology enables educators to gain a deeper understanding of learners' needs and concerns and develop targeted interventions accordingly.
One of the most exciting areas for potential is the way in which AI accelerates eLearning courseware creation. AI authoring tools can greatly speed up the content creation process. It uses a programming technique known as language modelling, a training algorithm that teaches machines to write like human beings.
From NLP algorithms generating written content including lesson plans, summaries, quizzes, and assessments, to video editing and transcription, graphic design and language translation. This can be done with popular programs and platforms equipped with AI capabilities, such as ChatGPT, Articoolo, Otter.ai, Adobe Spark and Adobe Premiere Pro, and even Canva.
Authoring eLearning courses can take weeks, which is far from ideal in a world where new discoveries and updates are constantly being made and need to be taught.
These commercial AI systems for online learning have demonstrated the complex impact of AI on learner–instructor interaction. For instance:
- A system was created that aims to prevent cheating by monitoring students and their computer screens during an exam. This may seem like a fool-proof plan to monitor students in online learning, but students complained that it only increased their test-taking anxiety.
- The idea of being recorded distracted students and created an uncomfortable test-taking atmosphere.
- In a similar vein, although another AI system aims to provide adaptive learning by adjusting itself automatically to the best method for an individual student, there is a risk that this might restrict students’ creative learning.
These environments have one thing in common. Unlike educational technologies that merely mediate interactions between instructors and students, AI systems have more autonomy in the way in which they interpret data, infer learning, and at times, take instructional decisions.
Harnessing the Power of AI in Education
In today’s highly evolved times, teaching and learning online can be easier than ever – for those who embrace it.
Reports indicate that teachers spend more than 50% of their time on paperwork, grading tests, assigning homework, preparing progress reports, and organising course materials and resources for classes. That’s time that could be better spent on student development and nurturing.
However, an annual O’Rielly survey revealed that education was one of two sectors with the fewest respondents (9%) reporting that they currently had AI projects in production. Although 46% of respondents in the education sector reported that they were evaluating the use of AI, it was also the largest percentage of respondents saying they weren’t using AI at all.
There are hundreds to thousands of software solutions that help educators, instructional designers, and course creators customize learning and optimize courses. These tools can be used to adapt lessons to students’ needs, continually providing an ideal learning environment, enhancing communication, and optimizing the lesson creation process.
To leverage the potential of AI in the online learning industry, eLearning businesses can take the following steps:
1. Embrace Data Analytics
Collect and analyze learner data to gain insights into their behavior, preferences, and learning patterns. This information can be used to develop personalized learning experiences and interventions proactively.
- Early Intervention: AI algorithms can detect patterns in student performance, behavior, and engagement, flagging potential issues or at-risk students. This enables educators to intervene early, providing timely support and interventions to ensure student success.
- Predictive Analytics: AI can analyze historical data to predict future learning outcomes, such as identifying students who may require additional assistance or suggesting personalized learning strategies. This automation helps educators make data-driven decisions to improve student outcomes.
2. Partner with AI Solution Providers
We’ve all heard of Saas (Software as a Service), and now AIaaS (AI as a Service) is becoming more prevalent. Collaborate with AI solution providers to integrate AI technologies into eLearning platforms. This collaboration can help enhance existing offerings, develop new features, and ensure a seamless user experience.
3. Invest in Teacher Training
Equip teachers with the necessary skills to integrate AI tools and technologies into their teaching practices. This training will empower educators to harness AI's potential effectively and strike the right balance between technology and human interaction.
4. Foster Collaboration and Feedback
Encourage collaboration between AI developers, educators, and learners to create a continuous feedback loop. This collaboration will ensure that AI technologies align with the specific needs and goals of online education businesses.
5. Create and Customise Engaging Content
AI can be used to create interactive and engaging content that keeps students motivated and engaged. For example, generate personalized quizzes, practice exercises, and interactive simulations, based on specific learning objectives.
6. Automate Everything
AI has the potential to assist with automating processes, streamlining administrative tasks, and optimizing educational workflows. It can automate routine administrative tasks such as grading and assessments, attendance and record-keeping, course enrollment and scheduling.
7. Innovate or Die
History has shown that it’s the companies that best adapt their business models that stand the test of time. AI provides incredible opportunity and immense potential to drive innovation and transformation in the education industry, and it’s up to us to explore these options to always become better.
From personalized learning experiences to adaptive learning and virtual reality, educators are being empowered to embrace innovative approaches to teaching and learning, or fall behind.
As eLearning businesses adapt to this new age of AI, you can harness its potential by embracing data analytics, partnering with AI solution providers, investing in teacher training, and fostering collaboration.
At The Really Great Teacher Company we thrive on innovation and have adopted AI tools extensively in various aspects throughout our business. By embracing the possibilities of AI in education, online learning businesses can unlock new horizons of learning and shape the future of education.
Remember, the integration of AI into online education is an ongoing journey, and staying updated with the latest AI advancements will be crucial to staying ahead in the industry. Embrace AI as a partner, and together, let's transform the education industry for the better!