Will Artificial Intelligence replace tutors in the future?

In case you haven’t noticed the trend in movies and series (see: Ex Machina and Black Mirror), the message is clear: Artificial Intelligence will soon become an inevitable part of daily life – whether we like it or not.

As part of this trend, EdTech writer Neil Jarrett recently suggested the ways AI will revolutionize the classroom as we know it. One big way is the shift in how students could use chatbots to understand school material:

Ai driven chatbots are the marketing tool of now, letting brands interact intelligently with consumers through their website or Facebook Messenger. While these bots are designed to produce a specific conversion (inbound traffic to that brand’s website, ordering a product, etc), this same technology can be used for education.

A chatbot within an edtech platform, powered by robust machine learning algorithms, could be able to give students direction and tips on specific types of problems, or connect them with the exact educational resource they need in seconds. This definitely explains why Bill Gates is pouring a fair bit of his fortune into developing education chatbots (3).

As always, Bill’s on to something here. Most of this generation has received academic instruction from a computer, and has used an electronic database for research. But what about when software can provide human-like responses and mimic teacher-student interactions?

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For example, if you run into a difficult math problem on your homework, chatbots can theoretically be a game changer. But there are many factors to consider:

Can chatbots build a rapport with students?

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AI has discrete learning capabilities, but how well can it tap into what a student already knows about their specific problem? Building trust is hard enough to do with human tutors; it’s also a key indicator as to why a student is seeking help: without a level of human interaction, what keeps a student feeling accountable to the integrity of their work?

Can chatbots give students confidence?

It may sound corny, but it’s proven that students perform better when they receive positive reinforcement during individualized tutoring sessions. It’s simple to program phrases like, “keep going, you’re almost there!” into a chatbot’s algorithm. However, AI’s conversational patterns have a ways to go before it can recognize a student’s learning process by the way he/she approaches a problem.

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Can chatbots provide mastery of learning?

How will the AI know when it’s leading you to the answer too quickly without explaining the steps to get there? How can it confirm that the student truly grasps the underlying concepts – so that he/she can apply them to similar problems in a quiz?

These questions are what we already ask of our human private tutors who operate online. As Bill Gates stated in a recent interview,

…There are online services where human tutors walk kids through their math lessons. But by using chatbots, a major area of investment for companies like Facebook and Microsoft, these robo-tutors have the potential to be free — while simultaneously reaching millions of kids.

Until chatbots start eliminating the need for human private instructors, human-operated services like Yup will use the most optimal way of one-to-one learning: world-class human tutors leveraging technology to engage as many students as possible. What a time to be alive!

 

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