Artificial intelligence put to use teaching students Mandarin
- Another college course is being taught using artificial intelligence — this time a foreign language.
- Mandarin, a difficult language to learn but one that is sought after in the global economy, will be offered through a joint venture by IBM Research and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). They are using AI to teach the class in the Cognitive and Immersive Lab that they say allows them to provide not just language lessons, but also an immersive experience that includes ordering Chinese food, exploring a Chinese garden and taking Tai Chi lessons.
- RPI reported that the program in the 360-degree immersive lab was tested in an introductory Chinese class last fall and will be expanded. The lab is increasingly used for other instruction and programs on campus.
IBM explained on RPI's website that the lab’s overall mission is to "explore and advance natural, collaborative problem-solving among groups of humans and machines." The lab is built around a futuristic “situations room” that can be adapted to industry-specific environments, and is housed on the Rensselaer campus in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.
Educause reported recently that use of AI will increase on college campuses over the next few years, though experts said colleges sometimes have been slow to adopt such advanced technologies.
Some experts say it can be used particularly effectively in STEM classes where it might be better suited for delivering the content, but others argue that it is also help in teaching students writing, where it can initially guide them, offer prompts and even assess their work.
AI systems also might allow some instructors more time for individual interaction with students because it will arm them with more information about their performance as a group and individually, thus helping instructors adjust their teaching and assessments.
Advanced systems might use machine learning to gather data and design a better textbook or provide recommendations to medical students about the right procedure in certain circumstances.
Nevertheless, critics say AI is simply a money-saving tool that will eliminate a professor's personal touch in delivering information, assessing students and other important interactions. They also say there are privacy concerns because AI often uses large banks of data about students.
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute CISL – Language Lab