Teacher with students
Teacher with students

The Future of Education: How Will AI and Machine Learning Make an Impact?

Leading Education

Constant evolution in technology is transforming education. The rapid development of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and big data has a significant impact on how the education sector can prepare students for the real world.

With the advancement of these new technologies, educators are able to transform learning into a personalised process that encourages curiosity, research and knowledge. Teachers get a new set of tools to encourage students and facilitate learning experiences in a more meaningful way.

The benefits of AI and machine learning in education are clear: personalised learning experiences, greater accessibility for rural and regional schools, and intelligent data systems that learn from a student’s strengths and weaknesses.

To combat the economic and social challenges of a changing Australian workplace, a national education plan that’s forward-thinking and focused on promoting lifelong learning is crucial. In assessing the full impact of these new technologies, we need to consider what the job market might look like in the next 10 to 30 years.

A new era of work

Picture a world with driverless agricultural tractors that self-sow, robotic arms that lay bricks, supermarkets that are run entirely by AI and fast food served by droids. In a decade or two, many of today’s jobs will be performed by machines.

Automation, robotics and AI are already changing models for work and increasing the number of people working alongside machines.

According to the 2018 McKinsey Global Institute discussion paper Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce, the impact of automation will be far-reaching across the entire global workforce. The paper states that the “adoption of automation and AI technologies will transform the workplace as people increasingly interact with ever-smarter machines”. The authors concluded that a workforce equipped with the skills required to use AI and machine learning technologies will ensure that our economies enjoy strengthened productivity growth and that the talents of all employees are harnessed.

Edith Cowan University’s Higher Degrees by Research Coordinator Dr Christine Cunningham elaborates on these findings. She says, “While about half of all work activities globally have the technical potential to be automated, the proportion of work actually displaced by 2030 will likely be lower because of technical, economic and social factors that will slow down those changes.”

Potential jobs on the horizon

Alongside automation, trends in globalisation and urbanisation will have a profound effect on work. The dynamics in the labour market will also be driven by the growth of the green economy and a rapidly ageing worldwide population.

Despite these developments, Dr Cunningham says, “Jobs that are only requiring secondary education will be lost to automation, while those roles requiring bachelor level and higher will continue to grow.” 

This transition into a new phase in employment history will likely mean that by 2030 a sizeable section of the global workforce will need to switch jobs as an estimated 25-46 per cent of work activities in Australia will be automated. However, this disruption brings opportunities for the creation of new roles and occupations. 

The industrial revolution shifted workers from farms to factories. In the age of automation and AI, humans will be collaborating with machines and applications such as ChatGPT, OpenAI’s virtual chatbot, for greater productivity and problem-solving. Although some tasks will be automated, occupations won’t necessarily completely disappear. Rather, the activities done more efficiently by machines will be automated, while humans will perform new tasks requiring decision-making, logical reasoning and creativity.

According to the Future of skills: Employment in 2030 report, jobs that require the human-specific characteristics of empathy and judgement will continue to thrive and increase, particularly in fields such as education, healthcare and public sector occupations.

In other words, jobs in years to come will require social skills to complement more technical abilities as technology takes over rote tasks.

Trends in education: Adapting to workforce change

As work becomes displaced by automation – and how we earn a living is redefined – there are implications for workforce skills and trends in education. Dr Cunningham says, “For the future, all countries will need to make an increased investment in education and workforce training.

“Policymakers and education leaders will need to embrace automation’s benefits and at the same time address the transition necessary for students and workers brought about by these technologies,” she adds.

While on-the-job retraining is a necessary step to future-proof careers – upgrading existing skills or teaching staff new abilities – the role of ongoing education becomes somewhat crucial. According to the World Economic Forum report Accelerating workforce reskilling for the fourth industrial revolution, “A new deal for lifelong learning is needed globally to provide deeply fulfilling careers to future workers while enhancing social cohesion and equity”. The report further states, “Adaptation to shifting labour market needs requires continuous learning and a considerable paradigm shift from the current frontloaded education system model.” 

Children who entered school in 2018 will be young adults in 2030. To ensure their success, a forward-thinking education system that utilizes AI tools, such as chatbots, is required to prepare these students for the employment challenges that may lay ahead. The future of education 2020 report explores emerging trends in Australia’s education system and states that “prioritising the development of problem-solving, communication, creativity and critical thinking skills in students will enable educators to meet the growing demand for valuable lifelong skills which will also equip them for the changing workforce”.

Education technology: AI and machine learning in education

Just as technology is set to disrupt the workplace, it will also change the way we learn and turn the traditional approach to teaching on its head.

AI and machine learning will revolutionise a wide range of industries, including education, by providing a new application layer that can support and enhance human decision-making.

ChatGPT and other AI chatbots

ChatGPT has already impacted the educational landscape and will continue to do so. Despite ethical and authenticity concerns, ChatGPT offers many opportunities to leverage the technology to enhance learning experiences and outcomes. ChatGPT offers benefits for both students and educators, such as personalised tutoring and instruction, grading automation, editing and feedback assistance and providing useful resources. 

Personalised learning

On top of the list of digital transformation trends is personalised learning. Rather than use a one-size-fits-all strategy, students will be able to use apps and devices to build their own personal learning profiles. This also means that teachers can use AI to group student activities based on their learner models.

Applying AI and data, teachers will also be able to shift from standardised testing. By studying digital classroom insights, teachers will have the ability to analyse each student’s learning activities. This means they can develop a concrete understanding of the student’s ongoing progress and how the student arrived at certain conclusions, rather than using stop-and-test methods.

Augmented reality and virtual reality

In a more experimental sense, teachers will turn to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to allow students to have a deeply immersive educational experience. This means medical students could virtually dissect a body and gain a realistic sense of each organ, while history students could conduct an up-close study of the contours and construction of one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture, the Venus de Milo.

Travelling to a museum thousands of kilometres away from a school doesn’t always align with an educational schedule, but a VR experience can give students a truly memorable learning opportunity.

3D printing

Education is a system that has long relied on purchasing physical models, but as 3D printers become more accessible and affordable, students will be able to take a digital concept in a virtual environment and transform it into a real-life object.

For example, they could print a scale model of a boat design or even a working prototype of an historical artefact. The possibilities are endless when you combine a student’s physical understanding of a subject with design software tools that allow them to test out a variety of configurations.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) will also play a critical role in learning environments. As in other sectors, IoT-enabled connectivity has been a boon for the education industry. From so-called flipped classrooms, where students are introduced to content at home and practise working through it at school, and integrated mobile technology, IoT continues to replace pencils, paper and chalkboards and expand learning opportunities.

Future-proof your career

If you are a teacher looking to further your career, it’s important to consider the impact of machine learning in education. Smart educators are using intelligent platforms to increase personalised and adaptive learning opportunities for students. These platforms help teachers turn data into insights and actionable information for grading, learning and improving student outcomes.

The role of a teacher skilled in using learning technologies has never been more important, especially now that the global economy is rapidly changing the employment landscape. At ECU, we offer a Master of Education that will help you consolidate your career by focusing on the advantages of AI and machine learning in education.

Enrol in ECU’s accelerated Master of Education course

Our fully online Master of Education course is accelerated and designed specifically with these busy working professionals in mind. You’ll learn from experts at one of Australia’s top universities while still being able to work full-time.

Choose your specialisation and steer your career with ECU Online's Master of Education.

Reach out to one of our Student Enrolment Advisors on 1300 707 760, email future.student@studyonline.ecu.edu.au or download a brochure from our website.