The pandemic has swiftly opened up the frontier of at-home learning and accelerated the adoption of teaching software across schools, universities and even businesses. Learning methods changed practically overnight, as teachers and students alike considered how digital solutions could plug the gap left by national lockdowns and social distancing measures.
This shift was not unexpected: technology has been enhancing classrooms and expanding the frontiers of education for many years. Covid-19 has simply hastened these movements. Importantly, though, it has opened our eyes to the benefits of wide-scale online instruction. Not only does technology enable access to world-class education from the confines of your own home, but it can vastly enhance students’ ability to learn.
The UK has always been a leader in the education technology (EdTech) space. Recent statistics from 2019 show that 58% of all 16-24-year-olds were using online learning materials, and 29% were enrolled in online courses. The pandemic, however, has spurred the adoption of digital solutions, with one technology in particular taking the driving seat.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has long been improving the way knowledge is transferred, and the number of applications of AI in this space are growing by the day.
If we look to the future, how will this technology shape education in 2040?
Remote learning is here to stay
The first point might be fairly intuitive, but it is nevertheless a crucial one. Spurred by the global explosion of internet usage and the uptake of devices like smartphones and tablets, it is becoming easier by the day to learn from anywhere in the world. In 20 years’ time, children will be able to learn from their living room, students could be taking part in courses from the world’s leading universities from the comfort of their favourite café, and professionals could even be picking up a new language on their daily commute to work.
The physical boundaries of education will soon be eradicated, with every adult and child having access to the same resources and quality of teaching as their peers around the globe. For those who have already utilised education portals or assessment software, you have already had a taste of what AI can do. And as these solutions become increasingly sophisticated, learners will soon be in a position to dictate where and when they learn.
Personalised learning will inspire a curriculum overhaul
A one-size-fits all factory model of education is outdated. However, we now have the opportunity to construct a system that meets the evolving needs of learners of all ages. We must give them the tools they need to become successful, and that means offering personalised and tailored teaching.
This starts with an overhaul of the curriculum as we know it. No doubt, science, mathematics and history are important subjects that every student should have a basic level understanding of. But we must reimagine the very concept of a curriculum to make it individually responsive and to better reflect the fast-paced world we live in.
New subjects are being created every day: New Media, e-Business and Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) are all courses that are unlikely to have existed a decade or two ago. Yet now, they are some of the most important fields of study as the digital landscape continues to change.
In the years to come, students will not be forced to learn a standard curriculum. Students don’t need to know everything; rather, they need to have a grounding of certain basic things. In 2040, I envision that students will be offered a “buffet” of subjects from which they can choose based on their particular skills and interests. We will move away from the idea of specifying a restricted number of subjects to study, and instead give students credits for the specialities they have chosen.
But we will also see changes to the way knowledge is delivered: the sheer volume of new information that we are exposed to on a daily basis means that we are constantly being forced to re-examine our understanding. For instance, our comprehension of immunology and coronaviruses is already far more advanced now than it was at the beginning of the global outbreak in early 2020, as is our understanding of what policies hold the most promise in tackling the spread of the virus. The rigid curriculum most institutions follow make it difficult to take into account such new developments.
How can we update a curriculum in real-time to ensure that students have the most up-to-date knowledge? The answer lies in leveraging AI solutions that can collect all the data available globally, instantaneously. Every day, students will be offered the most up-to-date information that exists to ensure that they never fall behind. Even better, AI toolsets will present the information in a way that resonates with each individual. After all, while making notes during live lectures might work well for some, others prefer to learn visually or through interactive activities. While the concepts taught will be the same, the way they are presented will be based on the unique learning styles of every student.
Moreover, AI will give learners the ability to break down their chosen subjects into bite-size pieces and learn at their own pace. Using predictive analysis AI will be able to recognise problem areas for learners and focus more heavily on these topics to ensure a good level of understanding before moving forward. This level of personalisation is, today, near impossible for educators who must singlehandedly oversee a whole cohort of students.
Moving towards a lifelong learning model
Given the speed at which information is shared and knowledge becomes obsolete, I also see us moving away from the concept of finishing education once a student has left school or graduated from university. To do any kind of job at a decent level, we will have to be continuously learning and challenging our understanding.
Virtual platforms will plug the gap and allow us to move towards a lifelong learning model. People of all ages can return to education at any time if they wish to improve their grasp on a particular subject, or learn things that apply to a new field they are in. Given the ease of accessing AI-powered educational platforms and portals, technology will enable the removal of all boundaries that prevent people from learning long after they have left formal education.
With this shift will come a change in the way we measure understanding; after all, memorising facts is not true learning, and AI solutions will give us the ability to transfer knowledge more efficiently. The concept of exams and assessments is due to be replaced with a peer-to-peer teaching model.
They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it, and AI will give people the ability to master subjects that they have a particular affinity with – and thereafter transfer that knowledge to someone else. Rather than the top-down model we currently employ, whereby success is measured based on a set of strict parameters in the form of formal written assessments, the way people will earn credits in the future will be through demonstrating their mastery of a subject by passing it on to someone else.
In the future, AI will measure a person’s ability to teach by how effectively their audience is learning during 1:1 teaching or study groups. By holding a 15-minute conversation with the pupil, sophisticated algorithms will be able to gauge how much a person has learned from their teacher, and whether the student is able to utilise the knowledge by extracting key themes, drawing comparisons and developing their own theories: in short, a true measure of understanding.
In 2040, the model of education will be worlds apart from what it is today. Not only will it evolve to include more technology that can offer personalised learning, but the very idea of what learning is will change. In 20 years’ time, students from all backgrounds and with varying interests will be accessing world-leading teaching solutions that will nurture their skills and give them control over their own education.
Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot. He also founded Fountech.ai, a company which is driving innovation in the AI sector and helping consumers, businesses and governments understand how this technology is making the world a better place.