Artificial Intelligence (AI) in eLearning

The concept of adaptive learning is being given a boost by artificial intelligence (AI).  We may not be at the point where smart computers are able to teach us any subject we want to know about through voice command.  But there are signs that AI is the direction eLearning is heading.

This is not the stuff of sci fi.  For example, artificial neural networks, which are mapped like our brains, are helping machines develop what is called deep learning.

Deep learning  crunches large amounts of data and comes up with optimal solutions or patterns to provide what the learner needs. This type of adaptive learning allows computers to figure out ways to beat humans in board games like chess and go.

How would this work in an elearning situation?  Two Canadian researchers explored how artificial intelligence can  provide automatic web-based materials based on learner responses in a closed learning system.

Tiffany Ya Tang and Gordon McCalla of the University of Saskatchewan set out to create a learning system that adapted to users rather than a closed learning system that was a framework for static course materials. Their idea was to create a theoretical open learning system, as a plug-in to a closed system, to deliver a 14-chapter tutorial on data and web mining and their applications in e-business, intelligent tutoring, and bioinformatics.

Their design called for building web crawler to find new papers in the largest digital repository of computer science. In their system, the two researcher wanted to harness the power of the open web to allow learners to explore whatever they wanted, and AI would do the rest.

In this proposed system learners are clustered by their interests and custom content is delivered from what the researchers call a sense-maker module, which tags and organises relevant papers. What they call an intelligent garbage collector keeps the digital paper repository from getting too large.

The two researcher’s theoretical AI design essentially calls on collaboration between the user and the closed system, and also harnesses the power of the open web and the ability of an AI system to keep learners updated with the latest information.

Although most companies or organisations are building closed systems, there are plug-ins you can use on your Moodle and Totara platforms which monitors learner behaviour as they progress through a course, will serve up the appropriate learning materials based on learner preferences, and can adapt to learner skill levels by making materials harder or easier.