• Mansour K. Mansour, PhD

Artificial Intelligence in Education: A Guide to Basic Understanding, Value Added, and Key Players

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

A valid question to ask is “What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?” Many use the buzzword without actually comprehending the reality of this field, its scope, its impact, and future prospects. Experts in the field do not agree on one definition and there is so many discussion and confusion about AI nowadays. I selected the following definition and description to AI (see the first reference quoted below): “Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions) and self-correction. Particular applications of AI include expert systems, speech recognition and machine vision.” AI (artificial intelligence) | What is Artificial Intelligence? In 5 minutes video.

The following resources address the utilization of AI in different businesses and sectors: Guide to AI in customer service using chatbots and NLP | This is AI | 32 Ways AI is Improving Education

What is Real and What is Hype in AI?

This is an important question for us to sift through the jargon and the buzz to determine whether a particular implementation is real or a hype. Karen Hao published an article in the MIT Technology Review on May 15, 2019 titled “Five questions you can use to cut through AI hype”. She outlined the five questions she suggests we use to assess the quality and validity of a company’s AI technology:

  1. What is the problem it’s trying to solve? - What does the company say it’s trying to do, and is it worthy of machine learning?

  2. How is the company approaching that problem with machine learning? - Here, we want to figure out how the company has reframed its problem statement into a machine-learning problem, and determine what data it would need to input into its algorithms.

  3. How does the company source its training data? - Most AI applications use supervised machine learning, which requires clean, high-quality labeled data. Who is labeling the data? And if the labels capture something subjective like emotions, do they follow a scientific standard?

  4. Does the company have processes for auditing its products? - How accurate are its algorithms? Are they audited for bias? How often does it reevaluate its algorithms to make sure they’re still performing up to par? If the company doesn’t yet have algorithms that reach its desired accuracy or fairness, what plans does it have to make sure they will before deployment?

  5. Should the company be using machine learning to solve this problem? - This is more of a judgment call. Even if a problem can be solved with machine learning, it’s important to question whether it should be.

AI Adoption and Market Demand

In a recent report published in August 2018 and titled “Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector 2018-2022”, the analysts forecast that the Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 47.77% during the period 2018-2022. In the summary of the published information on the report, “the author of the report recognizes the following companies as the key players in the artificial intelligence market in the US education sector: Cognii, IBM, Microsoft, Nuance Communications, Pixatel, and Quantum Adaptive Learning.” The report identifies high cost as a challenge to schools and universities to adopt and implement AI. Moreover, an analyst from the research team said: “One trend affecting this market is the increased emphasis on chatbots. In the US, schools and colleges are placing greater emphasis on the use of chatbots. Chatbots use AI, ML (machine learning), and deep learning technologies to store, process, and communicate data to students.” Check out the following video for explanations on AI vs Machine Learning vs Deep Learning: Deep Learning Vs Machine Learning | AI Vs Machine Learning Vs Deep Learning

In a press release dated January 21, 2019, Gartner reports that its survey on AI shows 37% of organizations have implemented AI in some form. That is a growth of 270% over the past four years despite talent shortages in this area of expertise. The press release reports that Mr. Chris Howard, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, said:

  • “Four years ago, AI implementation was rare, only 10 percent of survey respondents reported that their enterprises had deployed AI or would do so shortly. For 2019, that number has leapt to 37 percent — a 270 percent increase in four years,”

  • “If you are a CIO (Chief Information Officer) and your organization doesn’t use AI, chances are high that your competitors do and this should be a concern.”

  • “We still remain far from general AI that can wholly take over complex tasks, but we have now entered the realm of AI-augmented work and decision science — what we call ‘augmented intelligence,’”

AI Adding Value to Education and Key Players

The following is a selected list of AI implementations at K-12 and post-secondary:

EdTech published on August 27, 2019 an article titled “Artificial Intelligence, Authentic Impact: How Educational AI is Making the Grade”. In the article, the writer identifies five roles AI solutions have in K12- classrooms, namely:

  1. “Automation: By automating straightforward tasks such as grading, digital asset categorization or timetable scheduling, educators can increase the amount of time they spend actively engaging with students.

  2. Integration: AI solutions can integrate with other IT initiatives such as smart technology and IoT-driven networks to provide personalized learning solutions for students.

  3. Acclimation: Recent Pew Research data shows that 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone and 45 percent are online “almost constantly.” AI in schools can help acclimate students to the pace of technological change.

  4. Delineation: AI-driven analytics in education can help spot critical trends and delineate key markers to help teachers design the most effective classroom experience and drive digital transformation.

  5. Identification: Data analytics informed by adaptive AI solutions can help identify critical areas for student and teacher performance. Combined with robust security and access controls, AI can help spot and remedy potential problems in their formative stages.”

IBM Watson Education is using AI to improve learning outcomes and implement solutions that will help all students succeed. In particular, IBM Watson Education identified the following three areas. For more on how IBM Watson Education team is utilizing AI in Education, please watch this video This is AI Part 3.

  1. “Personalized content for students based on mastery - Lessons, activities and assignments for students based on where they are today

  2. Enhancing early childhood vocabulary development - Tablet-based vocabulary learning app that can identify areas that require additional focus

  3. 1:1 AI-based tutoring for students - Track students’ progress, adapts the conversation, and provides insights to instructors”

Cognii is a provider of Artificial Intelligence based educational technology. They offer solutions for K-12, higher education, and corporate training markets. The Cognii Virtual Learning Assistant engages a student in a chatbot-style learning conversation by prompting them to construct an answer, giving them instant formative assessment, tutoring them with personalized hints and tips, and guiding them towards conceptual mastery. Use the following link to watch a video on Cognii Virtual Learning Assistant.

CENTURY offers an Intelligent Learning Platform that utilizes learning science, artificial intelligence and neuroscience to create constantly adapting pathways for students and powerful assessment data for teachers. The platform has the following features (more details are available here)

  • Recommended path - a personalised learning path made up of micro-lessons called nuggets

  • Content library - online library of English, Math and science materials

  • Leadership dashboard - turn data into powerful information for school improvement

  • Teacher dashboard - real-time analytics about class performance, as well as actionable insights into each student’s understanding and skill

  • Guardian portal - enables your school to work more closely with parents and guardians

Quantum offers intelligent adaptive learning and assessment software solutions that inspire students to achieve more and empower instructors with real-time, actionable assessment tools to improve student learning and test performance. Quantum Tutors® utilize inquiry-based learning, scientific thinking, modeling and scaffolding to teach students how to become better learners and independent thinkers. Use the following link to learn more about Quantum Adaptive Learning and Assessment Software.

EdTech reported on Feb 11, 2019 that GoGuardian developed a new AI-enabled cloud filter for K–12 schools. The author of the article identifies the following aspects where AI expands K–12 IT ability to protect students:

  • “By using AI–enabled software, GoGuardian’s new filter can learn as it protects, updating to find and block new harmful content.

  • Like previous iterations of GoGuardian’s solutions, the software can also help educators identify harmful patterns in online student behavior. The filter can then notify teachers if a student may be in need of emotional or psychological intervention.

  • At Putnam County School District in Florida, administrators were able to identify four students in need of such assistance after troubling Google searches were identified through school-owned Chromebooks, Edtech reports.

  • With GoGuardian’s new software, teachers will be able to intervene no matter what device students are on as long as they are connected to the school network.”


No doubt, the adoption of AI by schools and colleges is on the rise. Organizations utilizing AI tools need to balance between the effectiveness of AI and issues like bias and privacy.

As the implementations of AI advance to higher levels of maturity going into the future, it is still to be seen whether AI would mature enough to offer learners convincing empathy and emotional connections.

The last but not least issue to address is a warning to organizations that have not so far considered implementing AI as well as organizations that are late in developing AI capabilities within their learning solutions. Competition is fierce and unless you are serious about innovation, you will most likely lag behind the leading innovators.

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