Exploring the culture paradigm across AI, VoiceTech, and Blockchain in education

Can educational institutions really change in the way they function and think? 

Today, students are more prepared than ever, even before they enter college. Not in terms of the subject (not always at least), but in terms of what they want to do and which college they choose to do their course in. 

All thanks to the power of the internet. The internet today has enabled more learners to not only pick and choose what they want to learn but also how they want to learn it. Places like Lamda School allows students to learn how to code without having to pay anything upfront. 

While political pressure and the cost of getting a degree, the trend is now shifting towards the core essence of learning. This quote from John Holt sums it all up:

 

“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and think of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions — if they have any — and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” ― John Holt

 

Technology, at the outset, is driven by culture. John Holt’s quote highlights the true culture of education, which was blindsided for all these years by higher educational authorities. Now that students are more cognizant of what, where and how they want to learn- technology is now sitting at the sweet spot of helping students learn better. 

In terms of technology- AI, VoiceTech and Blockchain- is it moving the needle in the education sector? Let’s take a look.   

 

 

AI- the beast beneath the buzz

What does AI really help with both teachers and students? Let’s take a quick look at that first. 

  • Teachers collaborating with AI: As AI continues to mature, it is helping accelerate personalization, effectiveness in communication and automating admin tasks. All of this so teachers can find more time to provide better learning context and adapt lessons to each student’s IQ and pace. 
  • Leading the race of customized learning: While a teacher cannot individually teach each student of the class, and AI-driven machine can help students to help identify gaps in knowledge and give tailored challenges based on the learning pace. Carnegie Learning Inc provides 1-1 coaching on math for pre-K to college students. Another great example is Content Technologies Inc has developed a proprietary AI that creates educational content for secondary and higher education, and corporate training as well. 
  • Universal access, and learning outside of the classroom: Some of the best teachers of the world don’t speak every language that we know of. Language and geographical barriers are now a thing of the past. For students who miss out on class due to prolonged illness or are in a different continent altogether, AI makes the content accessible globally. Take a look at the Presentation Translator, which is a free plug-in that creates subtitles in real-time of what the teacher is explaining. 

AI is especially booming in a country like India, all thanks to the robust startup culture. 

Check out Embibe, which is using AI for personalized learning. Students often zone out or get bored during lectures and lessons, and so Embibe’s AI stack offers behavioral nudges by analyzing moods to help with progressive goal setting, so students can score better in tests and have impactful learning outcomes. 

Bodhi AI is another interesting venture that is using AI to create courses into personalized learning goals and has gamified learning with fun challenges as well. Students who are looking to crack IIT-JEE, SSC, IAS, Railway entrance- this startup is worth checking out. 

Lastly, Verzeo is another AI application that is helping students build in-demand skills from industry experts. Through AI technology, they’re offering virtual mentorships at key touchpoints across the course, in addition to vernacular language support. 

 

“Alexa, what lessons are we learning today?”

Digital fluency in education is the need of the hour. The right balance is when technologies like these combine the best of both worlds; between traditional learning methods augmented by digital enhancements. This will increase the accessibility of courseware productivity for both students and teachers. 

With over 150Mn Indian users likely to own a digital voice assistant by 2019 according to Accenture, startups are now bringing the realm of learning to voice, with emphasis on vernacular.  

First, does voice technologies like Alexa and Google Assistant have any impact in higher education at all? 

Arizona State University’s (ASU) engineering students will have Amazon Echo Dots in their dorms, so students can replace traditional Google searches with voice commands. Students in higher education have a lot of research to do, and manually searching for the right answer is time-consuming. Alexa is capable of answering based on the best searches in a jiffy, which Amazon and ASU think will change the way students learn. 

Learning Matters’ has developed Tara, an NLP-powered, cloud-based virtual voice teacher that is trying to mitigate the nuances in people’s usage of English grammar.  Tara is currently being used in two schools in the Kumbakonam district of Tamil Nadu, where it helps to deliver lessons to students in a fun, engaging manner. 

Vokal is another edtech platform that uses voice to build a repository of online content. Think of it as a voice-based Quora. It allows users to ask questions using voice and converts it using speech-to-text while also getting subject matter experts like IITs, IAS professionals to answer the questions. It supports vernacular, but only Hindi for now. 

While it is early to speak of the global acceptance of digital voice assistants in higher education, institutes should, however, start exploring options of providing touch-free information access and course assistance to students on campus. 

Abu Dhabi announced the establishment with Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), the first graduate level, research-based AI university in the world which will focus on the study of AI.

 Block-chain goes to college

 

As you would’ve noticed thus far, education is becoming ‘decentralized’, which in other words simply means access to all. That was the prime highlight of case studies of startups that are leveraging AI and Voice Tech to transform the way they communicate lessons. 

There are two noteworthy trends, which has led me to mention block chain culture in the edtech space. The first was the concept of decentralization of course ware to students across all geographies. 

Second, is gamification– the foundations of which are peer-to-peer interactions. With the idea of fun challenges and leader boards seeping into quizzes and online tests, social interaction is going to be a key driver of the future of education. 

Before we talk about how block chain is being implemented, let’s examine the need. 

  • Fraud detection: Think about the number of students who are victims of delayed correction process due to damage to transcripts, or leakage of question papers. This seriously derails the morale of students, in addition to hurting the university’s credibility. Block chain could help reduce the costs of fraud and also eliminate the need for manual verification of answer scripts and other critical documents.

  • Storage of student records: Most institutes today are migrating to cloud servers and other infrastructure for storing historical data of students. This has proven to be costly, as expenses linearly rise with the amount of data to be stored. Also, the student can get lifetime ownership of his records. 

 

Currently, the students may or may not have access to the student records of the institution. By any unfortunate incident, if the university collapses, the could be at risk of losing all his data. By having block chain in place, he will have permanent storage facilities of degrees and certifications, regardless of the institute staying in existence. 

For example, MIT’s Digital Certificates Project has created an ecosystem for creating, sharing and verifying block chain-based educational certifications. Best, it’s open-source, which means your educational institute can start using it today. 

Woolf University is a model for a block chain-based university that will allow any accredited higher educational institution to launch their courses and degree certifications online. Block chain will be used for ensuring all regulatory compliance and minimizing bureaucracy aspects of traditional university models.  

Another noteworthy mention is Jalapeno Inventive, that encourages students to learn more about block chain while earning real cryptos along the way. What a way to incentivize students indeed!

In conclusion 

Whether it is AI, ML, Blockchain or Voice, education has room for all. The prime drivers of new technology adoption within the sector are the need for removal of all high costs, bureaucracy, language, and geographical barriers. 

The age of securing degrees and moving on with professional careers is now over. People want to learn and upskill themselves consistently, and this is possible largely due to the mobility advantages of smartphones and the connectedness the internet has been able to provide. 

Presenting a strong business case as well, higher educational institutes could look to experiment; much like the case of the deployment of echo dots across ASU’s campus. With successful runs, it could enhance the credibility and preferential level for students looking to enroll in courses.