Yesterday's publication of the government review into online learning and artificial intelligence education (AIEd) makes some welcome announcements. 

It highlights the crucial role of technology in raising the quality of technical education, while also acknowledging the sector’s limited understanding of these emerging fields.

The review therefore recommends that the Department for Education (DfE) funds ‘test beds’ to help FE providers gain a greater appreciation of the potential value and benefits of AIEd and online learning.

Jisc’s futurist, Martin Hamilton, comments:

“As the report notes, we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution driven by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. It's clear that the world is changing, and the jobs of the future need an education system to match - an Education 4.0 that complements Industry 4.0.

“We've been discussing what this might look like with Jisc members, and there are some fantastic examples of leading-edge practice as our colleges and universities. However, there is a lot more to do if we are to harness the potential of AI, and it's crucial that we place trust and ethics at the centre of any AI projects involving learners' sensitive personal data.

“We welcome the recommendations of this review and will continue to work with our members to help them deliver engaging, interactive AIEd and online learning.”

However, it’s critical that the tools that enter the market are high quality, able to deliver on their promise and build trust.

Karla Youngs, Jisc’s head of digital content services for FE and skills, says:

“The online learning tools that are currently available vary wildly, and there has previously been a correlation between lower cost and poorer quality. Online education and AIEd must be affordable, and high-quality content must be the standard.”

To help deliver this, the DfE report recommends that products should be commissioned through Jisc ‘as they can bring to bear efficiencies through collective bargaining on behalf of the sector, while also having the technological knowledge to effectively appraise bids.’

Karla also stresses that colleges should assess their individual needs and aims before committing to investment:

“It’s about making considered, strategic decisions that will suit your offer and community.”

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