How Will AI Transform the Workforce? Look to Schools

AI’s inevitable transformation of work is getting its start in schools at varying levels.
AI Education

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is scheduling our meetings, helping identify sales opportunities and augmenting many other aspects of the business world. It’s also present in our lives before work. In many ways, AI is transforming schools, helping students and teachers alike learn more in the classroom.

To be sure, educators have researched how to use the fundamental technology behind AI for decades. Early research started in the 1970s, but only recently is it taking off due to greater visibility and advancement of the technology’s capabilities, said Tanja Mitrovic, associate dean and professor in the department of computer science and software engineering at the University of Canterbury. In 1988, the first Intelligent Tutoring Systems Conference was held in Montreal, Canada.

Today, intelligent tutoring systems support students acquiring problem-solving skills, but AI is also emerging in adaptive multimedia systems, computer games, simulations and virtual reality and augmented reality environments, Mitrovic said. How AI will change the classroom, what students learn and its influence on the future of the workforce has yet to be seen.

Artificial Intelligence in Real Classrooms

One early result of AI in education is that it learns patterns from students’ problem-solving processes and then creates a personalized curriculum for that student based on what they know and how they approach solving problems, said Steve Ritter, co-founder and chief scientist at Carnegie Learning Inc., a math curriculum software company based in Pittsburgh. There’s also less of a focus on fact-based knowledge than in traditional classroom learning, he said.

Intelligent tutoring systems can track steps taken by the student to solve equations or word problems, for example. According to a March 2016 Forbes article, “The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Education,” this helps to “diagnose misconceptions and estimate the learner’s understanding of the domain.” Then, the system can share customized, immediate feedback and explanations to help the student in areas they struggle in.

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Furthermore, the technology helps students who are either behind or ahead of curricula, helping them speed up their learning process to keeping pace with their advancements, Ritter said. For those who are learning faster than their peers, AI education systems can provide access to advanced courses that might not be available in local schools.

This software also aids teachers by sharing insights into their students’ thought processes, allowing teachers to adjust curricula and have better-informed and more one-on-one time with students who need it most, Ritter said. All of the experts interviewed for this story agreed that AI in education is not intended to replace teachers.

AI in education is helping to create more personalized systems, “but education is fundamentally a social process,” Ritter said. A challenge of this technology is to enable group experiences and help students with their abilities to work in teams, a skill that is invaluable for the workplace.

The Intelligent Workforce of the Future

Using AI at an early age helps people become more comfortable with working alongside the systems when they get to the workforce, but it could also help connect companies and students, said Jason Bowman, global president and co-founder of myKlovr.

New York City-based myKlovr is starting as a virtual college counselor platform as it takes off in the company’s early stages (it launched mid-June). It aims to then connect organizations with college students, offering a bridge from schools to the workforce. The young talent using AI could have unique perspectives for a business, ensuring its success and relevance in the future.

“Those who are taught AI early on and learn how to use it and work with the actual thinking behind it will have a greater ability to succeed in the future,” Bowman said.

MyKlovr has actually brought on young people interacting with AI, such as Alec Jones, a 14-year-old who created Christopher Bot, a Facebook Messenger-powered AI that helps students manage their schedules and coursework. “The future is being built by our students,” Bowman said, so myKlovr is leveraging the talent and bringing them into a partnership.

Business leaders should be open to perspectives from new generations of workers and allow them some autonomy in using their knowledge of AI to identify solutions that will benefit the workplace, Bowman said. This generation will also likely be so familiar with technology that it will fade into the background of everyday life, Bowman said.

Nonetheless, AI will change the landscape of the workforce, evolving available jobs and how they get done. These changes will require new skills from the human workforce and AI’s continuation from classroom to cubicle will be facilitated by just-in-time learning throughout a learner’s lifetime.

“In the future, people will need to re-skill, and AIED systems should support that kind of learning, too,” said University of Canterbury’s Mitrovic.

Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email editor@talenteconomy.io.