Chatbots and The Future of Education

Ever noticed how quickly people learn when it’s something they’re truly interested in?

I for one only learned how to write songs because I was curious about how words and melodies can be put together to create something that has the power to make people happy or sad.

I didn’t go to music school to learn how to write songs. I simply listened to my mother while she sang, I played my father’s records while he was at work, and I watched my sisters whenever they got together to do something they called composing. I was eight years old at the time and I was fascinated by all this.

I wanted to know how it was done so I could do it too. Why? Because I wanted to see if my songs would have the same effect on people.

By the time I was twelve, I was using my own pocket money to buy singles and albums of artists I liked. I would listen to tracks over and over again, read the lyrics in the liner notes, and imagine myself writing them. At fifteen, I wrote my first song and at 21, I released my first collection of songs written and co-produced by me.

Self Education

What I’m trying to say is everything I know about songwriting is largely self taught. And I did it all out of curiosity.

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It only killed the cat’s lack of insight and increased its appetite to learn more. Today, many people are educating themselves and learning new skills on the internet by watching videos and presentations on YouTubeSlideShare, and Lynda.com.

The beauty of teaching yourself is that you are motivated by your own interests and what you want to achieve.

Having these learning platforms on the internet is like having your own private teacher on demand. But it’s not so easy to get a real one-to-one session with these online teachers because they are far too busy creating more content.

So when people have burning questions about something they didn’t quite understand in the slides and videos, they ask their eTeachers in the comments section and hope to get a response.

Problems

This poses a real problem because it can have people waiting days on end for an answer. Sometimes, they don’t even get one. Some of these eTeachers have huge followings and it’s simply impossible for them to answer every single question.

This is a problem that educational chatbots can solve. A chatbot is simply software that simulates human conversations like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.

Today’s students are mostly millennials who love messaging platforms like WhatsappiMessage, and Snapchat. Wouldn’t it be more efficient if these eTeachers had messaging chatbots that could answer basic questions for their students?

Imagine a situation where a student is stuck on a particular aspect of Photoshop and needs answers there and then in order to finish a project with a close deadline.

That student could send a message to Lynda.com’s chatbot for instance, who will then search the platform and send the student a message with the most suitable answer.

Solutions

IBMs artificial intelligence technology is currently being used to power a teaching assistant for an online course at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Jill Watson gives human professors and assistants the time they need to address more important issues while she answers routine questions from students.

While this is great for the university and its online course, it’s not so great for those who do not have access to that service.

I envision a world where a single conversational messaging app can pull answers from a host of educational institutions. You simply ask your question and the chatbot will search for answers from the online courses of top universities and all digital learning platforms.

Freemium or Premium?

This suggests that education in today’s world should really be free. But long established universities probably oppose this move because they’ve become accustomed to their ever increasing tuition fees.

Another approach might be to charge an affordable monthly subscription fee to access the library of information on the app, similar to the way people pay for music libraries on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

Imagine a billion people or more paying £9.99 per month for access to the world’s library of educational information.

In this way, value will still be created and people around the world would have the power to truly educate themselves on any subject they might be curious about.

Chatbots have huge potential to make this a living reality. With their machine learning capabilities, they could even learn to teach post graduate courses.

The only time you’d need to see an actual human teacher would be to spend time on more complex theoretical or practical issues like philosophical discussions or physical experiments that require the knowledge, guidance, or supervision of an experienced expert.

Imagine what we can achieve when billions of people are liberated to learn in their own way, at their own pace, and in their own time.

Think of all the innovative ideas that will spring forth when anyone with access to the internet becomes empowered to educate themselves and learn about things they truly care about, in a seamless way.

It’s mind blowing!

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