1. Cannot dismiss the importance of human touch

Cannot dismiss the importance of human touch

While artificial intelligence can deliver the best content to a student by analysing a large amount of data, machines can’t comprehend emotions or help a student fix his/her problems

Published: September 18, 2017 3:15 AM
The intervention of digital is transforming the way we live. Be it to plan a holiday, watch a movie, eat at a restaurant, or to avail any lifestyle or home services, an increasing number of people are getting heavily dependent on technology. (Reuters)

The intervention of digital is transforming the way we live. Be it to plan a holiday, watch a movie, eat at a restaurant, or to avail any lifestyle or home services, an increasing number of people are getting heavily dependent on technology. Given the data-rich and data-driven playgrounds of artificial intelligence and machine learning, several skilled human tasks have already been replaced by automated platforms. That’s the impact technology is making on our lives. Education is one of the sectors ripe for technological disruption. A lot of people believe that good quality content delivered through state-of-the-art technology is the solution to our education woes. Imagine a kid sitting in a remote town in Bihar and gaining access to best quality educational videos from a top-notch tutor in Bengaluru. Isn’t the thought, in itself, revolutionary? But what’s the assurance that the results will be fruitful? What’s the guarantee there would be results at all in the first place? Even as technology has simplified education, a lot of hype has been built around the innovations, which has resulted in people believing that technology can replace a tutor.

One might argue that if technology can indeed eliminate a real estate broker, a travel agent or a physical book store, then why is the role of a tutor imperative in a student’s life? What people tend to forget, however, is that technology is only as good as its creator. Unlike the one-time purchase of a movie ticket, a book or a flight ticket online, education is a long-term process that needs to be governed by an expert/tutor. While artificial intelligence can deliver the best of content to a student by analysing a large amount of structured and unstructured data, adaptive learning systems and more, machines cannot comprehend emotions or help a student fix his/her problems.

Imagine a child suffering from the developmental disorder dyscalculia (difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic). Here, how will machines help to identify the problem and address the particular child’s issue? How will the machine motivate the child who is low on confidence? This is where human intervention becomes inevitable. Tutors are required to help students when they face difficulties and inspire them to attain their goals. Without the intervention of a human touch, technology merely remains an automated machine. Ultimately, it shouldn’t be about tutors being replaced by technology, but how tutors can add value by incorporating technology in their lessons.

The best approach to realising maximum benefits for all the stakeholders in the education ecosystem is a blended-hybrid approach where technology is used as a driver to empower tutors in delivering exceptional learning outcomes. A thorough inspection of the curriculum, the needs of students and finding out the correct modality can lead to an engaging learning experience. This approach will help students get the best of both worlds—online and offline—and most importantly, this technique will ensure that every student’s learning needs are fulfilled. In this new age of learning, where students are pursuing knowledge on a computer independently, tutors have to utilise their time to observe students more closely, pick up on individual problems they may not have noticed amongst a group of students, and provide timely feedback and guidance—much like a personal coach. While India has been facing a huge rural-urban divide with regard to learning, digital learning combined with traditional pedagogy can help to address the problem in innovative ways, paving the way for access to quality education and holistic development universally.

Ali Asgar Kagzi
The author is co-founder and director, Genext Students, the private home tutoring service.
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