The future of education is the AI powered autonomous learner:

The future of education is autonomous learning:

 Many people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs in the educational system. And very often the proposed solutions lose sight of the fundamental issues. The lack or unavailability of quality teachers, in adequate numbers. 

In this age of Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning, we are all experiencing more and more intelligent automation.

But the history of human progress has always been about increasing automation. As a child I was very fascinated to note that the lights of the refrigerator switched on automatically when it’s door was opened. We saw the emergence of automatic telephone dialling rather than calling up the operator to connect a call. For some time, while local calls were automated, trunk calls and International calls were still operator assisted. We have seen microwave ovens becoming commonplace that don’t have a visible obvious source of heat, and cellular phones without copper wires. Also the evolution of cars from their earlier version of ‘ horseless carriages’  to ‘self-driving cars’.

If India wants to become a $5 trillion dollar economy in the foreseeable future, it will have to overcome the challenge of rapidly training millions of young in the requisite skills of the 21st century. This requires that we transform our passive and reluctant learners to active self-directed learners, shifting the focus of education from teaching to learning.

Autonomous learning is the future of education. We must now think that instead of having a classroom of twenty students, we now have “twenty classrooms” of one student, each with their own agenda. Students should be able to work independently and be given the freedom to do so. Autonomous learning would allow the learner to personalize his/her learning agenda based on his/her academic strengths and personal interests, and self-monitor his/her achievements.

The teaching curriculum might look a bit different in the autonomous classroom. The teacher will be responsible for sharing self-monitoring strategies. Students might use learning logs or charts and tables to follow their progress. Teachers will teach error analysis and help students use their mistakes as learning opportunities to accommodate their learning goals. Teachers must provide the necessary guidance to help students choose their personal learning goals. Teachers must provide feedback as student pursue their own questions and solve their own problems. Teachers remain the most important part of the autonomous classroom. They guide and help the learner in becoming a better autonomous learner, increasingly less dependent upon a teacher for all the learning needs. 

Let’s take a look at autonomous learning: The student is working on his science objective in the field of chemistry. The student goes into his virtual science laboratory. Here he experiments using chemicals that might be considered dangerous in the traditional classroom. In his virtual lab, the student witnesses the chemical reactions and must determine why the chemical reacted in that manner. While in that virtual world, the student finds an artificially intelligent computer that moves the student through a lesson on chemical reactions. The student then logs his work and determines his ability to meet his goal(s). That same student then meets in a small discussion group with his teacher and others to solve real world problems using necessary math skills. After making a determination and deriving at a solution, the teachers uses augmented reality to determine if their solution actually solved the problem. The student will continue his learning at home as he uses his foreign language application to practice his chosen foreign language as he prepares to meet his “Family Abroad”.

What about the teacher? Are we doing away with teachers? Regardless of the teaching/learning philosophy, the teacher remains pivotal part of the learning process.  When teachers ask if technology will replace teachers, I respond by saying that “ Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who use technology effectively to develop autonomous learners will replace those teachers who cannot.” 

Just like for an autonomous car, there needs to be some guidance and direction in order for that vehicle or in this case that student to arrive at its destination. Consider the teacher the GPS of the autonomous learner. The teacher will offer up a variety of paths to students’ destinations and also suggest best routes. The teacher will be the director of the system, helping students decide on their destinations and helping them get there by passing through various necessary skills and standards that the students will need once they reach that point.

We are presented with the same kind of thinking when it comes to education. Let’s think about the self-driving student, also known as the self-directed learner or the autonomous learner. What do we mean by autonomous learning?  An autonomous learner is  “one who solves problems or develops new ideas through a combination of divergent and convergent thinking and functions with minimal external guidance in the chosen areas of endeavor.”  

Traditional face to face learning evolved to Open and distance learning exemplified globally as the UKOU and in India as the IGNOU. While regulators in India have strangled the growth of distance learning, and other innovations in learner centric there is now a ‘Quantum jump’ to self-directed learning. Educators have been talking about independent learning, personalized learning, and student-centered learning for a very long time. The difference today is that new technologies powered with AI have given us the unique abilities to accomplish this task with greater success.

It is often said that evolutionary changes happen in response to the pressures of the external environment. Sometimes it is simplified to “ necessity is the mother of invention”. The AI powered autonomous learner , is a result of this evolutionary learning process to cope with the situation when there is no teacher. 

The WEF 2020 meeting at Davos just concluded. One of the panel discussions was on the Reskilling revolution : Better skills for a billion people by 2030.

Link to the video of panel discussion on the topic : https://youtu.be/mlpMomsOWxA

Autonomous learning is clearly a very critical part of the above mission and an important element of the strategy to reach the goal by 2030. 

About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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