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The Influence of AI Technologies on Virtual Education and Pedagogy: Ally or Enemy?

Virtual education grapples with AI's impact. Educators debate its potential: personalized learning vs. academic integrity risks. Explore how to leverage AI tools in Open edX while fostering critical thinking skills for the future workforce.
The Influence of AI Technologies on Virtual Education and Pedagogy Ally or Enemy

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As we navigate the Digital Age, we must recognize the influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies on various sectors. One of the areas significantly impacted is education, particularly virtual education and pedagogical design. AI’s role in education elicits diverse reactions from educators, with some viewing it as an invaluable ally while others consider it a potential enemy. This blog post will delve into this dichotomy, exploring how we, as a society, are utilizing AI technologies in virtual education and the contrasting views held by educators. It will also suggest some applications you can test on your Open edX platform to form your criteria and start testing these tools.

AI Technologies in Education

AI technologies in virtual education include adaptive learning systems, intelligent tutoring systems, and automated grading tools. These technologies work hand-in-hand to enhance teaching, learning, and assessment processes. For instance, intelligent tutoring systems may provide personalized instruction to students based on their unique learning needs and progress rates.

 

The Future of Jobs Report 2023 by the World Economic Forum highlights how AI technologies transform education. It mentions that educators may use AI tools to develop virtual reality experiences that make learning more interactive and engaging. Moreover, AI-enabled analytics are helping educators understand students’ learning patterns and tailor teaching strategies accordingly. However, this report also anticipates that AI will make traditional education systems obsolete. The report affirms that we need a new model based on the science of learning that focuses primarily on teaching students “how to think” through the cultivation of enduring skills such as critical and creative thinking, ethical reasoning, and emotional intelligence. According to the World Economic Forum, a model like that would prepare students for the future by enabling them to do what AI cannot and empower them to ethically and effectively use those tools and avoid being marginalized. 

 

But to make this need a reality that benefits all types of students, educators must start having conversations about how to use new technologies in their classrooms and curriculums to identify the risks and opportunities these tools bring to their practice and their students’ journeys.

The Pros and Cons of AI in Education: Educators’ Perspectives

The debate among educators regarding the role of AI in education continues to rage. The Future of Jobs Report 2023 acknowledges the potential benefits and risks of AI’s introduction in classrooms. On one hand, it could make learning more personalized and efficient. On the other hand, if inappropriately managed, it could compromise essential skills development and academic integrity.

AI as an Ally

Some educators view AI as an indispensable ally in modern education. They argue that it enables personalized learning, catering to individual student’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Furthermore, AI can automate administrative tasks such as grading, thereby reducing educators’ workload.

 

AI can also help improve student engagement. With AI-powered platforms, educators can create interactive lessons, introduce gamification elements, or use virtual reality for experiential learning. These strategies can make learning more enjoyable and engaging for students.

AI as an Enemy

On the other hand, not all educators are optimistic about AI in education. Some teachers express concerns over its potential adverse impacts on academic integrity, creativity, and critical thinking skills. They argue that AI tools, such as writing assistants or Large Language Models, like ChatGPT, might encourage academic dishonesty.

 

This concern is also relevant to the Open edX community. 2U published a white paper about ChatGPT and Academic Integrity to recommend some strategies for maintaining the integrity of the learning and academic process for educators who use the platform while recognizing the possible misuse that students can give to AI tools.

Recommendations for AI Tools Implementation in Open edX Platform

Although we must accept that IA tools can be used to plagiarize work or cheat the system to solve assignments that we consider indispensable in the educational process and the pedagogical design of our courses, denying the presence of these tools and wanting to remove them from our classrooms is not an efficient solution either.

 

Instead, we propose that we can all learn more about these technologies and, without ignoring their threats and risks, find efficient solutions to enhance the development of our students’ essential skills and prepare them for the advancement and implementation of these tools in other sectors that may require them in the future. Platforms such as ChatGPT or Gemini are tools; how we use them is entirely up to us.

 

To help you with this exploration, we will give general recommendations about what to keep in mind while implementing AI tools in your courses and some repositories and solutions that can help you start learning and discover more about AI tools for education.

General recommendations:

  • Gain a deep comprehension of tools like ChatGPT, including their functioning mechanisms, the appearance of their outputs, the consequences and advantages of using such technologies, and how Large Language Model programs can generate responses for assignments within your courses.
  • Utilize LLM programs to craft prompts, develop formative assessments, and tailor personalized evaluations to each student’s unique needs and abilities.
  • Create inquiries that prompt students to showcase critical thinking, logical reasoning, problem-solving abilities, and practical communication skills. Ensure these open-ended questions encourage originality, creativity, and innovative responses.
  • Prevent cheating by establishing classroom standards and updating class policies to offer explicit guidance on the appropriate use of AI writing tools in educational settings.

Programs and Platforms:

  • AI MOOC Toolkit by Educators Group: This toolkit was created by the Educators Working Group of the Open edX community. It focuses on items that support the specific needs of MOOCs with their asynchronous, online student students and generally prioritizes a lower-maintenance approach. Some items on this list have yet to be fully vetted, so please do your due diligence when deciding what to use for your course. It is an excellent repository of available tools to start with.

  • AI Pedagogical Project: This is an exciting project developed by the metaLAB at Harvard University. It helps educators, administrators, and parents explore AI technologies and understand how to engage their students in conversations about AI’s capabilities and limitations informed by hands-on experimentation. You will find all the information organized through a guide that will take you slowly and clearly through all the particularities of this topic.

  • SMOWL: It is a proctoring solution that has gained the trust of educational institutions and organizations worldwide. Its mission is to improve the quality of online assessments. Imagine you are a school or university looking to ensure the security and reliability of your online exams. Integrating SMOWL with your learning management system (LMS) will offer a seamless user experience, exceptional support available seven days a week, exam security, and more efficient assessment management, allowing teachers and students to focus on learning without worrying about academic fraud and technical issues associated with online learning platforms. You can implement this solution to prevent plagiarization or fraud using AI technologies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the influence of AI technologies on virtual education and pedagogy strategies is undeniable. While some educators view it as a valuable ally that can enhance teaching and learning processes, others see it as a potential enemy that could undermine academic integrity and critical thinking skills.

 

In this digital era, the future of AI in education lies in finding a balance. We need to harness AI’s potential benefits while mitigating its risks. This way, we can ensure that we’re using these powerful technologies to enhance education and prepare students for the future.

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