Spotted in an article in The Guardian on 4 April 2017, we have learned that there is a chance universities might start using robots and drones in future. Professor Ashok Goel has (successfully) tested the use of artificial intelligence to ease teaching an online course.
As he and his team became aware of their inability to keep up with answering all of the questions they were asked by their students, Goel decided to create ‘Jill’, a virtual assistant who would answer the students’ questions within a short amount of time. When they finally revealed Jill’s real identity to the students by the end of the term – most of them had been unable to spot any difference between communicating with Jill and their chats with human members of staff – they were plastered with positive feedback.
As the use of artificial intelligence increased student engagement, Goel and his team have started using four robots that help them do their job. Although their initial aim was to save time, which has not been achieved yet, Goel expects the use of artificial intelligence to be helpful in the future, especially in parts of the planet where it is hard to find teachers.
However, despite the positive feedback and the interest of other departments in making use of robots as teaching assistance, Goel is also sceptical about the consequences of this – for example whether robots will lead to a decrease in human interaction.
Apparently, drones are already being used for research in universities, as Brandon Stark, director of the University of California’s centre of excellence on unmanned aircraft system safety, has pointed out. Furthermore, they also help with maintenance issues, such as making sure that rooftops are still intact.
As an example for a productive use of technology the Guardian lists the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which uses a programme called ‘iSpots’ to track the usage of space, which could possibly help them improve the design of their buildings in future.
So whilst technology already appears to affect every other aspect of our daily lives, it might now become a crucial component of our education systems.
- By Pia Schumacher