But rapidly adopting deeptech in education is not without challenges. We asked the experts about five trends that could mark this year — and what the future could look like.
1. AI-powered personalised lessons
For Esteve Almirall, a professor at the department of operations, innovation and data sciences at Barcelona-based business school Esade, online teaching offers educational institutions huge possibilities for personalisation and scaling across borders.
“Virtual environments powered by AI can offer not only the scalability that you have online, but together with the capacity to engage students — to capture the attention and imagination of the class, making it possible for them to participate actively,” he says.
Davide Rovera, manager of eWorks, the arm of Esade which aims to support startups, says that there’s now a shift in society which is increasingly enabling students to work on their own unique skills and abilities — and this is where the high level of personalisation enabled by AI is most useful.
Virtual environments powered by AI can offer not only the scalability that you have online, but together with the capacity to engage students
“Students are now looking for more customised content that suits their own needs and their personal growth paths. The idea of one big, monolithic block of content is also becoming less and less attractive for students,” says Rovera.
Rovera adds that with each generation, there is a change in how people behave and AI-enabled personalisation can help deliver content with customised formats and lengths. For instance, some people prefer to read, while some prefer to listen or watch videos.
2. Maintaining equal access
However, the use of such technology by students also comes with its own set of challenges.
With concerns such as the rising number of deepfakes, there is also the need for formulated guidelines to avoid misuse, says Rovera: “The more powerful the tool, the more important the guidelines that come with it — and AI is an extremely powerful tool.”
The steep gender gap in AI is also worrying. Women make up only 26% of data and AI positions in the workforce and just 16% of tenure-track faculty focused on AI globally, according to Deloitte.
It’s the role of the government, the institutions and the tech industry itself to an extent to enable equitable access to AI
“We need to enable access for women to take up STEM courses, starting right at the school level — for example, have special coding classes for women,” says Ananya Singh Bhadauria, who manages international education policy at London-based education administration firm Acumen. “There needs to be a positive bias towards women when you're enabling technology in education.”
This also raises the question of whether the increased use of technologies like AI and AR will widen the existing digital divide, moving education further away from underprivileged sections of society.
“It’s the role of the government, the institutions and the tech industry itself to an extent to enable equitable access to AI,” says Bhadauria.
3. AR for more engaging lessons
Along with the high level of personalisation, another benefit of using technologies like AR is the possibility of more creative, engaging ways of knowledge delivery and application.
Almirall says that Case Western Reserve University’s human anatomy classes is one such example of what AR can offer in education. “You can walk through the different layers of the human body,” he says. “You can also do similar things in experiments in physics, chemistry and so on.”
He adds that in fields that involve more abstract concepts — like business management or arts degrees such as philosophy or linguistics — the potential uses of AI are yet to be explored.
Bhadauria agrees that immersive lessons are far more engaging for students, not just in virtual classrooms — but also in physical ones. “For example, students could be shown volcanoes through 3D projections, for instance — and when you see things in a more interactive light, you understand and learn better,” she says.
Students are now looking for more customised content that suits their own needs and their personal growth paths
Campuses using AR to teach also points towards a future where education could be a part of completely virtual worlds like the metaverse.
“Being able to do a meeting without a screen or without a computer, it's a different kind of environment using your avatar and this is going to be translated to classes too. You can bet on that,” says Almirall.
For Davide, AR also allows classes to be more inclusive as there’s no pressure to have all the students in physical classrooms.
“Another trend is the shortening of feedback loops — students are not willing to wait months or years to see the application of something they've learned. So changing teaching formats to incorporate shorter feedback is key — we've learned something new, now let's try to apply it and see how it plays out,” Davide says.
4. Teachers have hope — and shiny new tools
While AI tools will be used to make the learning experience more fun, engaging and flexible, experts agree that the interpersonal experience provided by teachers won’t be replaced by AI, as they will still be needed to explain the bits that students don’t understand.
“AI tools are never going to replace teaching staff, but it will allow them to spend more time connecting with their students — and the reduced workload could also free up time which can then be spent concentrating on higher impact tasks like reaching more students or experimenting with innovative teaching formats,” says Bhadauria.
AI will be instrumental in the progress of humanity as a whole, which will in turn lead to more jobs along the way
Since Almirall joined Esade in 2007, he says that there’s been more of a focus on students’ diverse needs. “The idea of the flipped classroom involves shifting the role of faculty to more of a facilitator of knowledge — to teach people how to find and filter knowledge that is accurate and relevant,” Almirall says.
“AI will be instrumental in the progress of humanity as a whole, which will in turn lead to more jobs along the way,” he adds.
5. Keeping up with a deeptech-driven world
But there’s scope for improvement. Rovera says that in business schools like the Esade Entrepreneurship Institute (EEI), which just celebrated its 30th anniversary, for instance, students can now use AI to create better pitch decks, faster.
AI tools are never going to replace teaching staff, but it will allow them to spend more time connecting with their students
“There’s been a macro trend, for years now, of content becoming more visual — so less text, more more images and videos, and that’s both from the faculty as well as students’ sides.
“If students have to generate content for a PowerPoint presentation or a pitch deck, they should leverage these tools because that's what they’d have to do in the industry — and it’s better to do it in class first and learn how to actually write those prompts,” he continues.
Esade debated the topics in this article at 4YFN, the event dedicated specifically to startups within the Mobile World Congress, a mobile phone and technology trade fair.