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UAE bets on AI in education

Ali Shabdaar/Dubai
Filed on February 26, 2019
UAE bets on AI in education

(File photo)

The UAE is a regional pioneer in incorporating AI for economic development.

After playing a video for students, Alef asks them some questions. Based on their answers, Alef assesses the students' understanding of the concepts, and recommends further reading material. They then answer follow-up questions and participate in group activities to develop their understanding of the subject matter further.

After 12 months of this experiment, about 240 Grade 6 students in Abu Dhabi excelled in their studies. While English scores improved by 27 per cent, Math results soared by 78 per cent. This is all thanks to Alef, an AI (artificial intelligence) education system.

The UAE is a regional pioneer in incorporating AI for economic development. Ever since the formation of the UAE AI Council in 2017, the government has organised various initiatives, such as workshops and field visits, to raise awareness about the importance of employing AI in the advancement of the country.

The response has been quite positive from the community, and both public and private sectors have shown interest in incorporating AI in areas like transportation, healthcare, energy, space, and technology.
The education industry, in particular, has seen impressive growth.

Partnering with technology companies like Alef Education, new ways of effectively educating future generations are being put to the test. Way past the experimental stage, educators have identified inspirational ways to use AI for everyday activities within their classrooms.

Predicting student behaviour
You can say a lot based on a student's attendance and engagement in class. With the help of AI, not only do teachers better understand students' learning patterns, but they also learn what to expect from their current classes. AI compares attendance across a given period and predicts if a particular student will show up for class, take enough lessons to qualify for examinations, and how their performance will change over time.
However, student achievements depend on teachers' efforts as well-school administrators can use the same AI technology to predict the attendance and performance of their teachers.

Facilitating in-class automation
From primary schools to higher education institutions, grading and evaluating answer sheets is a daunting task for instructors and teaching assistants alike.
Even though AI can't completely replace human assessment yet, it can automate most of the fundamental grading processes, freeing up teachers' time and ensuring students receive unbiased grades.

Customising course curriculum
Not every student learns the same way. By browsing through student records, analyzing specific learning patterns, monitoring progress over a period or lesson, and identifying preferred learning formats for each student (e.g. video-based courses), AI tools can provide comprehensive information to educators.
AI tools can also recommend lessons and courses based on students' capabilities, helping teachers formulate more effective teaching methods and better learning habits.

Not a threat, but an aid
AI is changing the way students learn. The use of intelligent systems that answer questions, offering essential guidance and directing students to additional resources, is also increasing.

While teachers focus on customising courses for advanced learning, AI can provide round-the-clock assistance to students on foundational subjects, such as Math and languages, while constantly learning from interacting with different students and improving their experiences on an unprecedented level. With the rise of online classrooms (Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs), students don't need to attend traditional classrooms all the time.

The next step will be for students to enjoy AI-aided MOOCs from the comfort and safety of their homes, anywhere in the world, while still interacting with their classmates and teachers. The advent of AI in the UAE education system is merely a small step towards achieving the vision of the UAE AI Council.


Ali Shabdaar is a Business Development Director - MEA at Zoho Corporation. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.


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