Q: How do you think AI will change how we think about learning in the future?
Technology has always brought changes to every sector, education being one of them. When calculators were developed, there were concerns that they would reduce students’ mathematical ability as they may rely too much on calculators. However, what was found was that with calculators, students had higher problem-solving scores, better attitudes toward mathematics, and better self-concepts of their own ability to do mathematics. The same will be the case with AI-powered applications such as ChatGPT and many other AI-powered applications. They are tools that can be leveraged in many ways. I remember when I was at University, a computerised study tool called MedTeach had just started and it was essentially a tool to teach medical students anatomy and physiology using a computer that would ask questions and teach them. I found it enormously helpful in preparing for my exams. AI takes it to a whole new level compared with the old tools from when I was at University. However, to unlock the potential of AI, these tools must be used to augment educators and create environments that help students thrive even more.
Q: What are some concerns that you have about the ethical use of AI in the future in education?
There have many studies done in this space and the key areas that come up with regards to ethics in AI in education are:
- Bias and discrimination. The AI depends on data and if the data is skewed to a particular gender or particular race or some specific group, then it may be biased towards that group. This is something all AI developers strive to avoid but it does happen.
- AI learns from data so many of the systems using AI for education would be collecting and analyzing data on the students. This would need to be with their consent but one also needs to be careful about what data is collected (e.g. location data) as systems can be hacked and used for nefarious purposes.
- Surveillance. I heard recently that Tesla cars record everything going on in the car and outside the car, even when the car is not turned on. AI is typically collecting data and in education it would be collecting data on the student’s learning styles, content etc. However, data-collecting systems could be considered surveillance depending on how the data is collected.
- Because AI is often used to predict, and in education that would be predicting how well as the student will do (in order to assist them in doing better). But some scholars argue that this creates questions about fairness and self-freedom.
Q: As you are an expert in AI application, do you have any insight into how AI might transform the higher education field?
In all industries, AI provides real-time analysis, prediction and personalization. For higher education, we can look at these for both students and academics.
For students some beneficial applications could be:
- Personalization of learning. The AI can analyse the student’s learning styles, understanding of the material and strengths and weaknesses and monitor performance, ability and progress (in real-time) and adapt the material to assist each student to learn what they need help with, in the learning style most suited to them.
- Tutoring. Like MedTeach in my student days, AI can be leveraged as a tutor to help educate individual students in the areas they most need help with. This could be with them 24/7 – such as an app on their phone, that gives them the guidance that they need at the time they need it.
- Improved remote learning. A disadvantage in many remote learning approaches is the lack of face-to-face interactivity leading sometimes to shy students being unwilling to ask questions and see the help they need. However, with AI environments can be created that duplicate the types of interactions usually only seen in face-to-face classrooms.
For academics and educators, some benefits applications could be:
- Save time in planning. In many cases, only half of the time is spent teaching and half preparing lectures and marketing papers or doing admin. AI can take over some of the activities from admin to grading or replying to student questions.
- Ensuring academic integrity. Although much is being made of the potential for ChatGPT to allow cheating on essays etc, there are tools that exist that can detect if something was written with ChatGPT. So although it is easy to use it to write essays etc, it is also easier than ever for educators to identify and catch students passing off AI-written work as their own this way.
- Monitoring student progress. AI tools can keep track of many aspects of a student’s work and analyse it and assess what is needed. In today’s world, many teachers do not have the time to provide comprehensive one-on-one support to all students. However, with AI analyzing and monitoring, this kind of support is possible. AI can even analyse facial expressions and tone of voice to provide further insights into what is going on for that student (bored, confused, depressed etc).
Q: You’ve worked in AI for over two decades, what (if any) transformational changes are you seeing in this field now?
There are many transformational changes in my industry (pharmaceuticals) but across industries currently, the biggest change is with Generative AI. Generative AI refers to a category of AI algorithms that generate new outputs based on the data they have been trained on. It was developed from generative adversarial networks which developed in 2014 and is a type of deep learning. It is being used to generate all sorts of things from ChatGPT creating text, but it is also creating images, audio and video. This has implications for disrupting several industries including advertising, art and design and even entertainment. I interviewed the founder of Charisma Ai for my podcast which was fascinating. Their AI technology allows someone to insert charisma tools into books, and movies and then individuals reading the book, or watching the movie can become involved in it to the degree that each person may have a completely different experience of the book or movie and have even different endings. You speak to the game’s characters in natural language, influencing their actions and emotions, and shaping the narrative as it unfolds. This is improving constantly in many fields in AI.
Q: What advice can you give to other women leaders in male-dominated fields?
- Understand the industry you work in.
- Keep learning and be the best you can be.
- Be confident in your ability. We see again and again that women who are expert in areas downplay their ability while a man who has never done it will play up his ability as if he is an expert.
- Take on challenges.
- Focus on being respected more than being liked.
- Learn how to handle conflict in a non-personal way.
- Get mentors.
- Join women’s networks to both give and receive support. I am a member of HBA (Healthcare Business Women’s Association) as well as Chief and both organizations are valuable in both ways.