Learning Management Systems (LMS) are always advancing to embrace the latest technology. Which means that at some point LMS’s will definitely involve the application of AI. But what do we mean by AI? And what will AI in education mean for learners, educators, and institutions?
Humanity has been fascinated by the prospect of sentient machinery since K. Capek’s 1920 play “R.U.R” gave us the term “robot”. And there are definitely many applications for a machine that thinks like a human, but never needs to sleep, eat, or get some downtime with its family.
Virtual Reality future predictions are always to be taken with a grain of salt. If anything can be learned from news and gossip columns, it’s that humans love to dramatize. Although AI like IBM’s Watson are indeed highly sophisticated machines, they are still just that: machines that respond to human commands. They still need humans to create, maintain, and direct them.
And, let’s never forget, the term “robot” comes from the Czech for “forced labor”, which is a very appropriate term. AI will be designed to serve us, not to harm us. Whether AI in the future exclusively exists to complement jobs, or whether it replaces all human work, leaving us with a government-granted basic income and complete freedom from labor, it will never be designed to intentionally hurt us (um, this is pure fantasy – already there are drones which shoot missiles autonomously – to say it will NEVER be designed to hurt us is holding too much faith in humanity). An economy and a society cannot be run by robots, and governments and corporations alike will make sure their voters and consumers are alive and well, even if there are fewer jobs left to go around.
Although human educators need not fear the robot uprising just yet it’s clear that at some point in the future of the Internet of Things, we may see AI managing our educational solutions. It may not be quite as fascinating as The Matrix or The Jetsons suggested, though. Our AI is less likely to be a physical robot stood at the head of a human class, and more likely to be a program in the cloud that reminds students how far they have advanced with their coursework and recommends how their grades can be improved. Not very exciting, but probably very useful. And this may, on some level, reduce the number of hours educators work, or at the very least take much of the drudgery out of teaching.
But that is still a long way off.
In the meantime, AI developments in LMS’s are also opening up massive new education and employment opportunities. People will need to be trained how to handle AI, starting with the ubiquitous virtual assistants available today, and moving up to virtual beings like Watson. Jobs will appear in creating, maintaining, and programming these systems. In short, the human element will continue to be present, at least for the next three or four generations.
The future of Augmented Reality means that, although human educators may still guide classes, they may be supported by virtual classroom assistants. Don’t be surprised if in the next few years you strap on your VR/AR goggles to attend a virtual classroom with real classmates, a real teacher, and a friendly cartoon guide.
Let’s just hope it isn’t Clippy…