Is it too soon for AI in the education landscape?


Earlier this year, the UK Education Secretary called for the IT industry to work with educators to make “smarter use” of technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), to cut teachers’ burgeoning workloads.

Speaking at the 2019 BETT educational IT show in London, Damian Hinds said: “Education is one of the few sectors where technology has been associated with an increase in workload rather than the reverse.” But he added that, if used wisely, it could also reduce the amount of time educators had to spend on non-teaching tasks, such as lesson planning, marking and general admin.

Hinds cited the instance of Bolton College, which has deployed IBM’s Watson AI programme as a virtual clerk called Ada. Ada, which can answer natural language questions, provides about 14,000 students with personalised learning assessments and handles queries about the curriculum and attendance issues, both of which teachers would previously have had to do in their own time.

But according to Gary Barnett, chief analyst of thematic research at market researcher GlobalData, the Bolton example is currently the exception rather than the rule, and the adoption of AI in the UK educational sector, particularly in schools, is still far from commonplace.