How bots and other emerging technologies will transform education

March 13th, 2019

If you’re of a certain age, you probably have vivid memories of what school and university were like before internet-enabled technologies swept through. Classrooms had blackboards and encyclopedias, lessons were copied into paper notebooks and research took place in a separate library or computer room.

In 2019, it’s a different story. Technology is driving an education revolution – and that’s great news for today’s students.

The digital classroom

Today’s generation of digitally-enabled students have high expectations for their education. At all ages and stages, students expect to find answers immediately and crave opportunities to collaborate with their peers. They value the ability to learn when and where is convenient for them.

It’s easy to see how technology is driving these shifts. Tablets and laptops mean that students have a wealth of information at their fingertips, as well as access to interactive and collaborative tools for a richer learning experience.

Teachers have better resources to deliver an individualised learning experience, where lessons can be adapted for a spectrum of skill levels. Perhaps the greatest change of all is that, with the rapid rise of online learning, being part of a physical ‘classroom’ is no longer a requirement for learning.

But the transformation of the education sector won’t stop here. There’s fierce competition among tech companies to tap into students’ needs and provide the next generation of innovative tools to support their learning journeys.

Thanks to its focus on collaborative AI-enabled tools that integrate seamlessly with the Office 365 platform, Microsoft is leading the way.

21st century teaching: bots and AI

With rapid advances being made in artificial intelligence (AI), there is enormous potential for the education sector to benefit from bots and other AI-enabled technologies.

Wondering what bots are? You can think of bots as virtual teaching assistants that interact with students using human-like language, tone and personality. Powered by AI, bots go beyond simple rule-based processing and can interpret language, engage in two-way conversation and ‘learn’ through experience.

Bots have enormous potential to impact the learning landscape. When integrated as part of a collaboration app such as Microsoft Teams, bots can make a significant positive contribution to students’ learning experience. They do this by:

  • Real-time responses to student questions (by sourcing information from course material and other discussions on student forums).
  • Reminding students about key deadlines and information (such as when the next assignment is due, where a tutorial class is being held or the weighting of an upcoming assessment task).
  • Delivering personalised learning experiences to students (by responding to each student’s individual questions and needs).
  • Reducing the administrative workload of educators (by providing an alternative channel for students to seek information).

For example, Cloud Collective and Microsoft Australia recently worked with the University of New South Wales to create a bot that follows conversations in Microsoft Teams, identifies areas where students require more support and responds to student questions instantly – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Looking ahead

The impact of the technology wave sweeping through the education sector means schools, universities and training institutes must now compete harder than ever to attract and retain students. The availability of high-quality online education gives students more power to choose where they study – and there’s no doubt these choices are influenced by the student experience on offer.

It is time for education institutes to start adopting the 21st century technologies – like those offered by Microsoft – that offer a truly rewarding, engaging and rich learning experience for today’s students and make the future possible.