A.I. isn’t a Magic Bullet for better Learning

Artificial Intelligence may be a simulation of human thinking, but it isn’t a brain transplant.


Humans are unique entities. Everyone of us has different thoughts and perspectives; and that diversity is what has driven the evolution of mankind over history.  We are diverse because we all learn different things in different ways; and that diversity contributes to our sense of worth and our capacity to improve.


The world of education and online education has changed rapidly in recent years, and technology (including A.I.) is being used increasingly to help learning; but it must never be forgotten that technology is a tool to be used where appropriate; and not a replacement for the human brain.


Limitations of AI?

Different people learn different ways. Some are fast, some slow, some are visual learners and some are experiential. Some need more reinforcement for learning to become deeper and permanent. When people are distracted by tiredness, emotional upset or something else, the quality of their learning changes. You cannot deliver optimum learning by giving an identical learning experience  to everyone. The complexity of the learning process makes the application of A.I. problematic. Human minds can interact with and adjust to individual students, to optimise learning. There is the capacity for a human connection between the teacher and student which can never be the same as a connection between a  machine (A.I. system) and a student. Natural mentoring, tailored to the individuals needs cannot develop with A.I.


While A.I. has found application in many areas of education, issues have arisen almost as fast as the applications have been implemented.


A.I systems have been used to find and collate information from across the internet, but that capacity has not been without problems.

  • Students can use A.I. to cheat in exams
  • Industries can potentially be disrupted by excessive use of A.I. to replace current jobs, and that can disrupt economies.
  • Legal systems cannot keep up to rapid changes such as content writing being generated by A.I. Consider, if an A.I. program generates a study guide, article or book; who has legal ownership of that writing? Is it the program developer? Is it the person who used the program? Is it every resource owner whose work was drawn from. Copyright infringement laws are strong, and protect the originators of intellectual property. When grey areas such as this arise; litigation can often emerge which may complicate and frustrate those who are using that intellectual property. At the end of the day, the only people who might win could be the lawyers. Businesses need certainty particularly with respect to ownership of what they sell, and with respect to A.I. that certainty may not exist.
  • Given that every living person is different, everyone has their own biases; and AI as such will always have a built in bias from it’s creator, however small or significant it might be.
  • Consider the diversity of cultures in the world. Every culture has differences in how things are done and the way people think and prioritise., Culture is fluid too. As culture changes the way which that culture thinks changes. Developers of education A.I. come from different cultures, and their approaches to applying A.I. will this reflect differences of cultural bias.
  • The use of A.I. to deal with the internet will draw on that which exists on the internet. In this respect it is thinking “inside the box” (ie. The internet box). Human progress however comes from thinking outside the box.


There are limitations to machines. There always have been The advent of cars made people less active until man realised that driving everywhere was not healthy and as a result physical fitness deteriorated.


One must wonder if the advent of A.I. might make some people more lazy in their thinking. Eventually we may realise, and stop using so much A.I. so we can exercise our brains again.


So - What is AI?

AI is artificial intelligence.  It the simulation of human intelligence by computers and machines. What does that mean? It means that computers can do some of the things that usually require human intelligence. For example –

  • Processing large amounts of data
  • Recognising patterns
  • Making decisions
  • Making judgements

AI is also used in many different ways in our daily lives, for example –

  • Face recognition software to open our phones
  • Computers understanding our verbal commands, such as our phones, SAT nav, Alexa etc.

What is online education?

Online education is an example of e-learning. E-learning is electronic learning. Any learning that takes place on an electronic device, such as –

  • Tablet
  • Smart phone
  • Laptop
  • Computer

Online education is a form of e-learning that takes place specifically online. For example, a student may access their course via a LMS or have a username and password which gives them access to their online course.


The AI Revolution

The AI revolution could be a similar world-changing revolution to the industrial revolution, changing the way in which we learn and teach; but we need to be careful and measured in how AI is used. The Industrial revolution may have advanced mankind in many ways, but it also has a negative side. Mankind lives longer, but the world is overpopulated. The industrial revolution created a consumer society and improved standard of living; but it also created weapons of mass destruction and climate change.


Online education can deliver benefits to the education industry, but these should be embraced with an awareness of the limitations as well as the advantages.


We at ACS Distance Education have a deep understanding of where and how to use online education to optimise the benefits and minimise any risks or disadvantages.


You can

  • Reduce costs
  • Increase inclusivity in learning
  • Diversify and improve the student experience
  • Increase flexibility in learning, offering students the change to study when and where they want to fit in with their lifestyles.


A.I. can offer further advances for online education?


There is no doubt that A.I. can be applied to aspects of running an education enterprise, but those applications need to be embraced with caution. History has taught us that there are often unseen issues with any technological advancement. Sometimes early adopters do well, and sometimes the early adopters crash and burn, revealing the problems that need to be dealt with. Sometime those who are aware but cautious will gain more from innovations and have less risk to deal with.


The AI revolution could further advance online education, making it –

  • Cheaper
  • Faster
  • Smarter

Types of AI Online Education

Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning is educational software that is customised for every individual.  It means that –

  • The course is presented in an order that suits them.
  • The student can work at their own pace.

Currently, if students enrol on a horticulture course, for example, they will work through topic 1, then 2, then 3. With adaptive learning AI, the student can study in an order they want to and that suits them the best. They may want to study 1, 2 and 3, or they might want something more individualised. For example, student A might feel that they need to learn the Latin names of plants better before continuing, whilst student B thinks that they need to learn more about pruning and propagation before continuing further. Adaptive learning, therefore, meets the needs of the individual student.

Adaptive learning AI can also break down the learning into palatable chunks. Research suggests that our attention span is decreasing with time, so breaking down learning units into smaller chunks can mean that the student can study this more effectively. Some students may want to sit there for two or three hours and learn. Whilst another student may struggle to study that long and find it easier to study for five to ten minutes at a time and keep going back to the topics. In the past, they may have found it hard to study as courses didn’t tend to be broken up in this way. This may have put them off studying altogether. With adaptive learning, it therefore enables students to study in a way that suits them.


A chat bot is a chat robot.  It is a computer program that can simulate a human conversation by text or voice communication. Chat bots are designed to solve problems. Many organisations use chatbots as a way to offer customer service. For example, if a person has a query about their electricity bill, they may be able to find support from a chat bot offered by their electricity company. If the problem is more complex, the chat bot can also refer the person to the relevant human support.

AI Searches

Google developed online search engines in the 1990s, but AI will lead to the further development of AI websites. For search engines to be success, they need to be available, but the AI involved in the search also needs to be widespread and effective. AI websites and searches are important in education. In the past, people would have to visit the library or read books to gain further information, but today, many of us simply look online to gain up to date and extensive materials for our studies.

Intelligent Tutoring Systems

Intelligent tutoring systems can act in a similar way to a human tutor and –

  • Give feedback
  • Rephrase questions so that the student can answer them more effectively
  • Assessment of the student’s progress
  • Some software may even be able to give a grade or preliminary grade on the student’s work
  • Software that corrects grammar, punctuation and spelling in assignments
  • Searches for plagiarism.
  • Ensures that referencing and citation are correct

The aim of AI is not to replace teachers, but to position the tutor as an overseer and mentor of the student, encouraging and promoting their learning.

Live Virtual Facilitator

A live virtual facilitator is basically a lesson leader or guide. They do not lecture the student, but encourage the student to take responsibility for their own learning.  They are a trainer, mentor and coach.  The AI facilitator may answer questions, moderate discussion forums for the students etc. in research in 2016 at Georgia Tech, students were not able to tell the difference between the virtual facilitator and the human facilitator. The AI facilitator can also answer more quickly and answer 24 hours a day, which is not usually offered with human facilitators.

Criticisms of AI

AI in online education has been criticised.

  • Students can learn how to trick some systems to gain higher marks.
  • Students can cheat in some way. Whilst AI can detect plagiarised work, there is also concern that students can use technology and online information to produce their work more easily. So rather than learning, they are simply reproducing information.
  • There has been a massive growth in searches for AI essay writing as research has developed whereby AI can write effective articles and essays, also ensuring there is no plagiarism.
  • The systems have been criticised by teachers for poor education.
  • Glitches can affect the results of education received.
  • AI can provide more inclusive education for people with computers and software. Education and courses can be offered to people living in remote locations or those that find it hard to access face to face education. BUT there is still a digital divide, where some students still do not have access to online technology, so AI education is not available to those students.

However, AI is already here. It is already influencing online education and benefitting students.  AI is in its early stages of development, but it is continuing to grow and develop. As more AI systems are used, they will gain further knowledge and this will help them to improve the education they are offering to students.

AI online education must focus on meeting the needs of –

  • Students will benefit from having individualised, self-paced and supportive education services.
  • Teachers – Many educators are supportive of the growth in online AI in education, believing that it will benefit their students.

AI must also integrate with existing education and technology.

Online education will be affected by AI, and educators need to ensure that they are able to use the opportunities that AI presents.

The Advantages of AI in Online Education

In conclusion, AI will have many advantages in online education –

  • Offer individualised education to students
  • Offering self-paced education
  • Diverse educational materials and knowledge
  • Enabling course providers to deliver more inclusive courses

AI is enabling course providers to meet the needs of students in a changing world.

These changes are inevitable.  AI has benefits and advantages to students, teachers and educators.  AI should not replace teachers, but as AI develops and improves, it can provide additional education and benefits to the students.

Benefits of AI to Online Education Providers

The development of AI will also benefit online education providers.

  • Chatbots and AI tutors can answer students questions 24 hours a day 7 days a week, providing services and student support when human tutors are not available. Online education is becoming more self-paced, so students study when and where they want to, so chatbots and AI tutors who are available at any time of the day or night are beneficial to the students. They have someone there to answer their questions when they need them.
  • Chatbots can answer frequently asked questions.
  • The course and other learning resources can be accessed whenever the student wants to and wherever they are. So education providers can promote flexible learning to their students.
  • Keeping records of grades, completion of tasks, attendance etc can be undertaken by automated AI systems. This saves time for admin staff, teachers and other education staff, allowing them to spend more time on educational activities, such as mentoring, educating and coaching.
  • The education provider can also individualise and tailor courses so that they met the individual needs of their students.

Anything may be Possible, but that does not mean Everything is Desirable


If you are an education provider and are looking for more ways to move into online education, then why not have a look at just what we offer.  If you are thinking about using A.I., talk to us about where and how to use it with minimal business risk.


We offer the opportunity to resell over 700 of our online courses and 150 plus eBooks.

Contact us to find out more.


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