Artificial Intelligence in Education: Resources to Get Started

By Kim Ochs*

(Image: Shutterstock by elenabsl)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already widely used in education and training to empower teachers, make learning more meaningful, and improve workflows in education systems. Applications in higher education include streamlining college admissions, automating course assignments, reducing administrative tasks, customising experiences for students, or providing self-service chatbots. At the primary and secondary levels, AI is used to assign children to schools, identify students at risk of dropping out. However, employing AI brings challenges, ethical concerns, data protection issues, and the possibility of algorithmic bias, creating unfair outcomes when the one group is favoured over another.

What roles could AI have in education? What are current issues and trends? What are ways to address algorithmic bias? For those getting started, here are some recommended resources:

AITopics.orgAn official publication of The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), this website includes articles from global publications on the use of AI in a variety of industries, including education. You can filter results by geographical location, theme, source, industry or concept. Clicking on the Education Industry tab, you will see up-to-date articles from news sources, publications, and conferences. All of the resources are available in English only.

Their Brief History of AI timeline provides a concise list of key resources and links for those who are getting started in their AI learning journey.

ELearningIndustry.comFor educators who are new to AI, there are some excellent blog posts available on ELearningIndustry.com to read to understand the roles of AI in education and in an education system, identify how AI is changing education, and see specific examples of how the technology is being applied, such as automated grading.

Many of the applications of AI in education are rooted in online learning and education. Online learning companies are using AI to augment their current offerings (e.g. TurnItIn, a leader in plagiarism software, is incorporating AI into its products). 

The Center for Democracy and Technology has published a number of reports and resources looking at the use of data and technology in education, including issues such as student privacy and managing equity and bias in algorithmic systems. Earlier this week, they published a free training module: Algorithmic Systems in Education, which addresses potential benefits and harms of using algorithmic systems in education, as well as the responsible and equitable use of algorithmic systems in education. (This course is part of a part of a series of trainings on student privacy protection.)

Holon IQ, founded in 2018, provides global education intelligence and research. I highly recommend subscribing to their newsletter and downloading their Education in 2030 report in which the authors present five scenarios for the future of learning and talent, including the ‘Robo Revolution’.

Two of their open source projects—the Digital Capability Framework and Global Learning Taxonomy—are excellent resources to get an overview of the global education marketplace more generally and easily identify the players in the global AI space in the education market. If you are an investor, you could use these resources to identify a list of companies to add to your watchlist.

In addition to these resources, here are a few introductory articles:

Artificial Intelligence, Authentic Impact: How Educational AI is Making the Grade (EdTech Magazine, 2019), written by Doug Bonderud, provides an excellent overview of the role of AI in primary and secondary education.

Focussing on higher education, Annie Qureshi’s article, 5 Impressive AI Trends that Are Gripping the Education Industry, looks at AI and machine learning in academia.

Scientists from ITMO University in Russia present a helpful review of the literature in their article,  Artificial Intelligence Trends in Education: A Narrative Overview. They consider the application of AI in four categories: “customized educational content, innovative teaching methods, technology enhanced assessment, communication between student and lecturer”. This framework is helpful as it mirrors the implementation of AI as it effects the four elements of an education system: curriculum (content); pedagogy (teaching methods); assessment; and organisation (including communications).

While much of the innovation in AI in the education sector to date has happened in developed economies, it is important to recognise a growing momentum towards broader adoption globally. Just as it is important to consider education in context, it is also important to look at the implementation of AI in context.

Here are a few critical resources and policy documents addressing developing countries:

A notable initiative is the Beijing Consensus on AI and Education. Adopted in May 2019, this seminal policy document outlines recommendations for governments and other stakeholders in UNESCO member states on the following topics: planning AI in education policies; education management and content delivery; empowering teaching and educators; lifelong learning; and research, among other dimensions. It is the first ever document to offer such guidance.

UNESCO, the main UN agency working with member states on achieving the Education 2030 agenda, calls for a human-centred approach to AI and “aims to shift the conversation to include AI’s role in addressing current inequalities regarding access to knowledge, research and the diversity of cultural expressions and to ensure AI does not widen the technological divides within and between countries”.

This United Nations (UN) Activities on Artificial Intelligence report discusses AI in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 4 addressing education. The report also includes case study examples of AI implementations in the global south.

An article published in Nature Communications (2020), entitled The role of artificial intelligence in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, provides a broader overview and continues the discussion captured in the UN report.

According to Market Research Engine, the global AI in the education market will reach USD $5.80 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 45%.  AI will continue to transform all aspects of education – curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and organisation. Not only is there a need to monitor progress, but also to share cautionary tales, success stories, and lessons learned. ‘

The Leading with AI team has identified AI in education as one of our areas of focus. Subscribe to this newsletter to follow the conversation, and share it with others to widen the discussion.

Kim Ochs has been active in the field of educational technology for more than a decade, spanning work in higher education, research, and start-ups, working with international organisations, NGOs, private companies, and edtech investors. Kim holds a doctorate in educational studies from the University of Oxford.