AI and project-based learning
The author is a professor at the Kaist School of Business and Technology Management.
Last month, online education platform Coursera went public on the New York Stock Exchange. It offers online classes from many colleges and companies. Two Stanford University professors founded Coursera in 2012 to resolve educational inequality. It is especially known for AI intro class. It is considered a must for those who want to learn about artificial intelligence. The news of Coursera going public illustrates that edu-tech industry is in full swing.
In Korea, online open class system, K-MOOC, was established in 2015. An edu-tech start-up allowing anyone to attend classes by professors of AI has also launched. Anyone can take excellent courses anytime, anywhere.
I often take classes from Coursera. There are many free classes, but some are paid. Paid classes on Coursera have a unique pricing structure. You pay several tens of thousands won each month until you complete the classes you signed up for. If you work hard and finish fast, you pay less. So you don’t feel bad for Coursera charging you. You only regret not finishing it earlier. The pricing system focuses on motivating the students.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, we have become used to taking classes and learning online. But sometimes, it is not enough to learn through video classes. We learn by performing tasks and practicing. American philosopher John Dewey advocated “learning by doing.” It is necessary to assign learners a realistic task in order to encourage them to draw solutions, practice and present. It is called project-based learning.
A high school in the United States applied the project-based learning method to statistics classes. Students didn’t feel interested in statistics at first. A student asked why statistics was needed when becoming a hair stylist was her career goal. But the attitude changed while performing a task related to real life. The student who aspired to become a hair stylist made a statistical analysis on the correlation of hair spray use and damage on the hair. Students grew to become more interested in the subject.
Project-based learning can be applied to online education, too. A computer programing class on Coursera cannot be competed just by learning theories and answering short responses. Students need to write programs for themselves to solve assigned tasks and upload, and the projects are automatically graded. Students pass the class only after getting a certain grade. There are classes where grading cannot be automated, most notably composition classes. Here, students grade each other. A student can get the homework graded after grading homework by three other students.
Using AI can make project-based learning more useful. AI technology that can understand language enables automatic grading of a composition, and chat-bot technology can rate whether a learner understands a topic through a conversation. If physical activities are needed, AI video analysis technology can be used, as it is already the case in posture correction classes.
Companies can consider automation of training. By creating a virtual scenario similar to actual tasks at work, the company can evaluate performance by using AI. Virtual reality technology can also be used for training for dangerous work that is hard to be created in reality. Job experience games using VR are also popular. While many attempts are at the level of concept verification, many possibilities are open.
Technological development makes us reconsider conventional education and evaluation. Now, it is hard to thoroughly evaluate one’s competency only through college degrees, license and certificates and standardized test scores. Anyone can take classes from prestigious colleges and acquire skills needed for work through project-based learning.
Since the 19th century, expansion of universal public education has been the foundation of modern economic growth and development of democracy. Online and AI-based education opens a new horizon for greater educational opportunities. We need to ruminate the founding mission of Coursera to resolve educational inequality.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.