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Beyond the classroom, will ChatGPT enable lifelong learning in the Middle East?
By incorporating ChatGPT's capabilities into everyday teaching, experts weigh the pros and cons of encouraging a mindset of continuous learning.
A 16-year-old high school student Aaliyah rushes home to work on the two paper submissions due the next day. She opens ChatGPT, OpenAI’s language model, types in a prompt defining her submission and hits enter. In a few seconds, an essay skeleton is ready.
Designed to showcase rationality, reasoning and creativity, ChatGPT’s impact goes beyond churning out student essays, emails and schedules.
As an AI-powered conversational agent, ChatGPT has the potential to enable lifelong learning. With access to vast amounts of information, ChatGPT can provide adaptive learning experiences.
“Continuing education and lifelong learning will become easier with this tool,” says Geoffrey Alphonso, CEO at Alef Education.
Echoing a similar sentiment, Dr. May El Barachi, Associate Professor and Director of Computer Science and Information Systems at the University of Wollongong in Dubai, adds, “ChatGPT will push us to evolve and reinvent.”
The education system needs help, and tools like ChatGPT have a huge impact. The advanced algorithms can enable educators to create content tailored to students’ needs, abilities, and interests, which could enhance student engagement, motivation, and academic success.
“ChatGPT will have a profound and potentially disruptive impact on education. There is always an opportunity for improvement,” Dr. Alessio Faccia, Assistant Professor in Finance at The University of Birmingham Dubai and Professional Member of ACM, IEEE, ISACA, notes.
EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY RESPONSIBLY
Rather than banning the use of generative AI, embracing technology responsibly and teaching with it would be beneficial for pupils, says Alphonso. “Cultivating a learning culture that promotes responsible and ethical use of technology is essential for success.”
But “its incredible potential” must also be handled with caution, he adds.
According to Alphonso, AI-powered chatbots can provide immediate feedback and assistance to individuals seeking information or help, making ChatGPT a valuable virtual tutor.
“It can also provide intelligent tutoring through interactive simulations, games, and exercises to help individuals learn new skills and concepts,” he adds. However, Dr. Faccia says there are concerns that generative AI can endorse and spread incorrect information, potentially “polluting” the open data ecosystem and impacting research.
“Generative AI can provide intelligent tutoring through interactive simulations, games, and exercises to help individuals learn new skills and concepts,” says Alphonso.
By educating students on the importance of learning and gaining skills to succeed through their work and efforts, “ChatGPT will serve the right purposes and be used to improve our productivity and augment our capabilities,” says Dr. El Barachi.
Experts say ChatGPT and its future competitors Bard (Google) and Ernie (Baidu) might further “pollute” the open data ecosystem by endorsing and spreading incorrect information, directly impacting the research.
“Long-term effects will be related to business restructuring to ensure realignment with new market needs. Curricula will be redesigned and recruitment will focus on different skills,” says Dr. Faccia.
Generative AI has the potential to amplify teaching tools rather than replace human knowledge exchange; however, AI-generated content may reinforce bias, or inaccuracies, experts say.
There are also ethical concerns about using generative AI to automate tasks traditionally performed by human teachers, which can be addressed by “improving data collection and cleaning processes, promoting transparency and interpretability in model design, and using generative AI as a tool to assist rather than replace human teachers,” Alphonso adds.
A NEED FOR EXPERIMENTATION
There are many roadblocks to be addressed. “As educators, we need to experiment with AI generative tools to understand the criticality of learning and development by sharing best practices on integrating them in our teaching, to enhance the lifelong learning experience,” says Dr. El Barachi.
Like other technologies, there are several challenges to effective implementation. The insufficient availability of quality training data limits the performance of generative models. “The black-box nature of these models creates challenges in comprehending their decision-making procedures,” says Alphonso.
Dr. Faccia reinforces the purpose of learning – knowledge exchange and research – and notes that it shouldn’t be lost amid the technological transformation.
Additionally, with the shelf life of knowledge becoming shorter, it’s important to integrate ChatGPT into learning and workflow. Dr. Faccia suggests that “personalized, research-oriented education” has more opportunities in this new world.
“There is a need to redesign mentoring.”