How can artificial intelligence in online learning support emotional and social development? – FE News


In responding to COVID-19, the priority for education service providers was to ensure that face-to-face learning and assessment activities moved to an online environment (Hill, 2020). In doing so, practitioners may not have the ability to consider the implications that an online environment might have on the emotional and social development of learners (Heitz, Laboissière, Sanghvi, & Sarakatsannis, 2020).

From my own experience transitioning to the online world, I certainly missed some aspects of in-person work, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for students to transition from classes of 20 to 30 peers in online sessions or recordings where cameras and microphones were regularly turned off.

As a school principal, I found that while some learners thrived in remote circumstances, many struggled to adjust to this new way of teaching and learning. This view is supported by anecdotal evidence which suggests that many learners experienced feelings of isolation and demotivation during the rapid transition to online learning (Hall & Batty, 2020; Turner, 2020).

Using AI in learning and feedback

As we work towards a future where artificial intelligence (AI) will be commonplace in educational institutions, the question is how best to use it to support learners academically, emotionally and socially? One solution that could be beneficial in supporting learners is to provide online assessment feedback via AI.

Feedback is already well established as one of the most effective and cost effective methods of supporting learning outcomes – however, it is important to note that feedback is most effective when it comes from the teacher or the Learner Practitioner (EEF, 2021). Written or typed text is one of the most effective ways to provide feedback and is the preferred method when using digital technology, but research suggests that online students feel more supported and motivated when comments are made via personalized video recordings (Mahoney, Macfarlane and Ajjawi, 2019).

While personalized video feedback can benefit learners, my own experience as a math teacher (and my failed attempts to record feedback on YouTube!) tells me that it can be time-consuming and difficult to capture. Balancing personalized video feedback with lesson planning, delivery, intervention, progress tracking, and other administrative tasks, it’s easy to see why written feedback is preferred.

Implement AI as a real-world solution

However, with the advancement of AI avatars (imagine yourself, but virtual) and natural language processing (technology that allows AI to understand and mark up open text), it is possible to imagine a future where the process of formative and summative assessment is largely automatic. These developments mean that assessments could be automatically marked by AI, with tutors completing and personalizing AI-generated feedback.

Once generated, tutors could submit the feedback as text where appropriate for accuracy or as an AI avatar, which converts the feedback text into a video message, in any language. The AI ​​avatar presents itself as a digital version of the learner’s tutor, allowing the learner to maintain a personal connection with the tutor while still feeling supported and motivated (Mahoney, Macfarlane, & Ajjawi, 2019).

This development could support the emotional and social development of learners by supplementing areas where digital text is inadequate. For example, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. The learner would be able to receive regular feedback and support that is comparable to the classroom environment.

Taking it a step further, AI data could be automated in vendor systems for data capture requirements and used to produce meaningful reports for learners, parents, practitioners and senior management, which would help more to reduce the workload of practitioners and the administrative tasks that many practitioners cite as areas. stress and sadness (Teacher Tapp, 2021).

To look forward

The disruption of traditional ways of teaching and learning has led to a focus on how digital technology such as AI can better support learners academically, emotionally, and socially. While there is still a lot of work to be done to develop, test and ensure fit (ethical and pedagogical), the future is extremely exciting.

We, the NCFE Assessment Innovation Team, are seeing pilots and wide-scale adoption of new digital technologies tailored to better meet the needs of today’s learners and educators. Colleges, training providers, and Ed-Tech organizations that plan to further develop these approaches have applied to our Assessment Innovation Fund, now in its third funding window.

The Assessment Innovation Fund offers successful applicants up to £100,000 to collaborate in piloting innovative approaches to assessment across the learner journey. The successful candidates so far all have curiously different ideas, but one thing in common: a desire to transform the learning and assessment experience.

We look forward to continuing to support the sector in its innovative progress, and hope that our Assessment Innovation Fund acts as a catalyst for change by providing evidence-based alternative assessment solutions.

Dean Blewitt, Head of Learning Innovation at NCFE

Learn more about the Evaluation Innovation Fund and how to apply before April 19, 2022:

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