3.2 How Can AI Be Used to Support Learner Engagement and Motivation?
As a new technology, the full capabilities of AI have yet to emerge. As they improve and become more accessible, it will have many applications for online education. At the forefront of this innovation is personalized learning.
The important advantage to personalized learning is that all learners have different abilities and experiences and respond in unique ways to learning opportunities. An enormous challenge faced in our education system is properly recognizing these differences and developing learning approaches that help all learners achieve. Creating tailored learning environments for each learner can increase equity by providing every learner what they need to be successful, regardless of race, ethnicity, first language, culture, socio-economic background, physical and mental abilities, or geography.
Personalized learning helps a learner’s motivation
Motivation is a significant factor in performance and can influence what, when, how we learn. It can determine whether a learner persists in a course, their level of engagement, the quality of their work, and the level of achievement attained. There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic, both commonly used to drive behavior.
Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment. In the vast majority of cases, extrinsic motivation seeks reward, which can be tangible (money, prizes, diplomas, certificates, trophies, medals, etc.) and intangible (praise, support, recognition, etc.)
Intrinsic motivation involves doing something because of its personal significance to the individual. It’s the inner engine moving a person to self-improvement and involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding. This is the type of motivation is a bit harder to introduce to a digital learning environment but is the ideal when the goal is connecting with students on a personal level.
Take Duolingo for instance. Duolingo’s game-ified approach to learning a language provides the user with a fun and engaging interface. Its ability to boost motivation hits the mark for extrinsic motivation but is a miss for intrinsic motivation when it comes to engagement and the drive to complete the lessons. Including user intrinsic motivations into a design makes it easier to get to the heart of what people need from it. It creates a design thinking process that is more empathetic, and leads to building products that people will actually use, and most importantly, engage with.
We can learn about motivation from the instructor-student relationship
Instructor involvement in terms of the amount of time invested, care taken, and attention given, is a powerful motivator. Inclusion and connectedness are also necessary for encouraging and supporting motivation across diverse groups of learners. On the other end of it, difficulties in relationships with instructors and other learners can correspond with the undermining of the intrinsic motivation needs of a student.
The advent of online learning has allowed instructors to create lessons that can be shared tens of thousands times over in massive online courses. This frees up time for the instructor to create more course material, marketing their program, or engaging with learners. However, while the ability to automatically deliver content to a large number of learners at once is beneficial for running an online business, it can leave learners behind. There are limits to the amount of personal attention any one instructor can devote to a student, and the larger that course becomes, the quicker that limit is met.
Now, Artificial Intelligence won’t be able to replace the role of a tutor in the near future, but it can lighten the load. If an AI can spot early warning signs of a disease, maybe it can also spot a learner about to fall behind in their lessons, and identify the most effective way to support them. Or, since we’re already designing advanced chat bots to handle customer support calls, why can’t we design them to help with language tutoring?
Rather than wait for office hours to ask questions, e-learning technology allows students to clarify areas of confusion while they are learning. By acting as a virtual tutor, AI can answer questions when they arise to allow for students to waste less learning time due to confusion. This method is particularly effective for students who are shy or have any type of personality disorder that prevents them from readily asserting themselves. Rather than fear looking stupid, students can feel free to ask questions privately to better understand content.
Other ways that AI can help are:
- – Providing choice in virtually every aspect of the process, including where, when and how they learn the material.
- – Instructors take on the role of coaches instead of the role of information purveyors.
- – Pace is determined by the learning process of the student.
- – Ed-tech tools are used to manage the multiplicity of learning experiences.
Artificial intelligence still has a long way to go — but its abilities to make learning personal are prescient
Current AI technologies, while impressive, are still mostly limited by application. We can teach an AI to accomplish specific tasks better than humans, but we haven’t taught a single AI to do all the tasks humans can do better than we can do them. However, the improvements in neural net AI are pushing boundaries in all kinds of industries — education among them. As much as these scenarios may seem to belong to the realm of science fiction, it’s likely many of them will be commonplace within the next 5–10 years.
In the meantime, we know that intrinsic motivation is key, and digital tools that effectively use in personalized learning can accelerate student learning. By customizing the instructional environment — what, when, how, and where students learn — to address the individual needs and interests of every student, we will help students take that necessary ownership of their learning while developing meaningful connections with instructors and each other.
A growing number of classrooms in China are equipped with artificial-intelligence cameras and brain-wave trackers. While many parents and teachers see them as tools to improve grades, they’ve become some children’s worst nightmare.