Using AI to educate is no longer science fiction

Source:emlyon business schooDate:2019-04-02

Using artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionize the educational experience is not a new idea: back in 2012, a US blog specializing in further education offered a list of 10 ways in which AI can reinvent education. Back then, though, solutions such as individualized teaching and automated grading were still ideas in the making.

Fast forward to today, and machine learning, big data and virtual assistants are starting to have a real impact on educational processes. US-based professor Ashok Goel created a virtual assistant capable of answering his students’ questions. The assistant in question is known as Jill Watson (elementary – or almost!). emlyon business school, meanwhile, signed a global partnership agreement with IBM in January 2018 to develop a big data-driven employability assistant. The technology will work like a “skills-based GPS system”, anticipating job market trends and delivering new training and support models.

The examples go on. What is certain is that AI has already had three effects. It is changing the skills that companies want. It is changing teaching content. And it is revolutionizing teaching approaches.

AI is disrupting the world of work


An opportunity that places people front and centre

The gradual adoption of AI is accelerating changes in the skills required of workers. As interactions with ever smarter tools, machines and programs increase, the labour market is going to have a greater need for advanced tech skills to manage and design AI-related programs.

But it will also need social and emotional skills, which are hard to automate but which are vital to a harmonious relationship with technology.

In short, man machine interactions are at the heart of the strategic discussions in this area. Higher education therefore faces the key challenge of identifying the jobs of the future to make sure that students are as ready as they can be. But to do this will require a rethink of teaching programs. This is hot topic in the sector right now.

Teaching AI

When we think about teaching AI, tech skills come first to mind. Engineering schools are also getting in on the act by setting up specialized programs and chairs. As mentioned above, though, tech on its own is not enough: you also have to be able to nurture social and emotional skills, which can’t be automated.

Put another way, and taking the perspective of a management school, the challenge, says Renaud Champion, Director of Emerging Intelligences at emlyon business school, is to find ways to “train the managers of the future in the new approach to corporate governance”. This is the idea behind the school’s brand-new MSc in Digital Marketing & Data Science, which will be on offer to students from the start of the 2018 academic year.

But AI is also a research field in its own right and cannot be left solely to the mathematicians. Shifts in business models driven by artificial intelligence, the ethical and sociological questions raised by algorithms, and the changing position of managers are all issues that courses are gradually taking on board. For these reasons, emlyon business school has founded the AIM Institute, with the specific purpose of researching the opportunities and challenges that AI poses in management.

Moreover, these disciplines are not mutually exclusive: in fact, to really get a handle on the challenges, a hybrid, multidisciplinary approach makes sense. Ideally, students should come out of their training with a different kind of composite skillset that allows them to really grasp the challenges and respond to business needs. That is why the school is recruiting students with advanced mathematics backgrounds.

Renaud Champion //
Director of Emerging Intelligences and the AIM Institute, emlyon business school.