Challenges and Opportunities
One might have expected more and more sophisticated use of AI technologies in schools, colleges, and universities by now. Much of its absence can be explained by the lack of financial resources of local school systems, colleges, and universities as well as the lack of data establishing the technologies’ effectiveness. These problems are being addressed, albeit slowly, by private foundations and by numerous programs to train primarily secondary school teachers in summer programs. As in other areas of AI, excessive hype and promises about the capabilities of MOOCs have meant that expectations frequently exceed the reality. The experiences of certain institutions, such as San Jose State University’s experiment with Udacity, have led to more sober assessment of the potential of the new educational technologies.
In the next fifteen years, it is likely that human teachers will be assisted by AI technologies with better human interaction, both in the classroom and in the home. The Study Panel expects that more general and more sophisticated virtual reality scenarios in which students can immerse themselves in subjects from all disciplines will be developed. Some steps in this direction are being taken now by increasing collaborations between AI researchers and researchers in the humanities and social sciences, exemplified by Stanford’s Galileo Correspondence Project and Columbia’s Making and Knowing Project. These interdisciplinary efforts create interactive experiences with historical documents and the use of Virtual Reality (VR) to explore interactive archeological sites. VR techniques are already being used in the natural sciences such as biology, anatomy, geology and astronomy to allow students to interact with environments and objects that are difficult to engage with in the real world. The recreation of past worlds and fictional worlds will become just as popular for studies of arts and other sciences.
AI techniques will increasingly blur the line between formal, classroom education and self-paced, individual learning. Adaptive learning systems, for example, are going to become a core part of the teaching process in higher education because of the pressures to contain cost while serving a larger number of students and moving students through school more quickly. While formal education will not disappear, the Study Panel believes that MOOCs and other forms of online education will become part of learning at all levels, from K-12 through university, in a blended classroom experience. This development will facilitate more customizable approaches to learning, in which students can learn at their own pace using educational techniques that work best for them. Online education systems will learn as the students learn, supporting rapid advances in our understanding of the learning process. Learning analytics, in turn, will accelerate the development of tools for personalized education.
The current transition from hard copy books to digital and audio media and texts is likely to become prevalent in education as well. Digital reading devices will also become much ‘smarter’, providing students with easy access to additional information about subject matter as they study. Machine Translation (MT) technology will also make it easier to translate educational material into different languages with a fair degree of accuracy, just as it currently translates technical manuals. Textbook translation services that currently depend only upon human translators will increasingly incorporate automatic methods to improve the speed and affordability of their services for school systems.
Online learning systems will also expand the opportunity for adults and working professionals to enhance their knowledge and skills (or to retool and learn a new field) in a world where these fields are evolving rapidly. This will include the expansion of fully online professional degrees as well as professional certifications based on online coursework.
 Ry Rivard, "Udacity Project on 'Pause'," Inside Higher Ed, July 18, 2013, accessed August 1, 2016, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/18/citing-disappointing-student-outcomes-san-jose-state-pauses-work-udacity.
 Paul James, “3D Mapped HTC Vive Demo Brings Archaeology to Life,” Road to VR, August 31, 2015, accessed August 1, 2016, http://www.roadtovr.com/3d-mapped-htc-vive-demo-brings-archaeology-to-life/.