Personalized chatbot tutors will likely revolutionize traditional education and benefit students: AI expert

OpenAI has already partnered with an education nonprofit to test a virtual tutor program

Fox News | By Emma Colton | July 13, 2023

AI-powered chatbot tutors will likely revolutionize traditional education and benefit students with one-on-one training, according to a University of California, Berkeley professor of computer science.

ChatGPT has already made its mark among students, as younger generations rushed to use the chatbot that can mimic human conversation when it was released last year. Berkeley professor and leading AI expert Stuart Russell speculates that as the technology evolves, it could revolutionize traditional education with ChatGPT-style personalized tutors.

“Education is the biggest benefit that we can look for in the next few years,” Russell told the Guardian of AI’s potential impact on education. “It ought to be possible within a few years, maybe by the end of this decade, to be delivering a pretty high quality of education to every child in the world. That’s potentially transformative.”

Russell, who was in Geneva last week for the UN’s AI for Good Global Summit, argued that personalized chatbots could possibly cover “most material through to the end of high school” for students, all from their cell phone or computer.

AI expert Stuart Russell

Berkeley Professor of Computer Science, director of the Center for Intelligent Systems, and co-author of the standard textbook Artificial Intelligence: a Modern Approach”, Stuart Russell, gives his conference at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires on July 29, 2015 AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

OpenAI is currently testing a virtual tutor program powered by GPT-4, according to an announcement of a partnership with an education nonprofit in March. The program “functions as both a virtual tutor for students and a classroom assistant for teachers,” OpenAI said in its announcement. 

Russell said studies show that one-on-one tutoring is two or three times more beneficial to students compared to traditional classroom learning. He told the Guardians that there will likely be “reasonable fears” among teachers and their unions of “fewer teachers being employed – possibly even none.” He noted to Fox News Digital, however, that he doesn’t “necessarily” believe that scenario will play out, and is more focused “on the potential added value from AI tutors” than the bots replacing teachers.

“If I were the government or the school district, and there’s an opportunity to double the quality of education – getting most kids to college level by the age of 11 or 12 – with 25% more teachers, I would take this deal,” Russell told Fox News Digital. “The teachers would work as guides with small groups of kids, also helping them to learn to collaborate and so on, rather than teaching one lesson to a large class.”

An empty classroom

An empty classroom. (iStock)

When asked about using AI in the classroom, a spokesperson for the National Education Association directed Fox News Digital to a resolution the labor union passed at its annual meeting detailing the use of AI must “support the needs of students and educators,” “be equitable, accessible, and inclusive,” and not include any bias. 

“The National Education Association believes that the development and expanding use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies will continue to impact students, educators, public education, and the greater community,” the resolution states before outlining guiding principles such as AI needing to be transparent and to “not compromise the privacy of educators, students, or their families.”

Russell did note that risks associated with using the technology include possible indoctrination of students, while human involvement in education would still be necessary. Human roles in education could morph into roles such as “playground monitor” or leading classes on civics and morality or group exercises, according to the Guardian article.

placeholderHis comments come on the heels of a study out of Denmark that found “charismatic” robots, those that are programmed to speak in a passionate tone, can have a positive impact on college students, boosting creativity during group projects.

“We haven’t done the experiments so we don’t know whether an AI system is going to be enough for a child. There’s motivation, there’s learning to collaborate, it’s not just ‘Can I do the sums?’” Russell said. “It will be essential to ensure that the social aspects of childhood are preserved and improved.”

ChatGPT and other chatbots have become so well-educated, Russell said at the UN summit, that they are “starting to hit a brick wall” and may soon be “running out of text in the universe” to use for training.

The ChatGPt website

APRIL 14: The ChatGPt website on a tablet, on April 14, 2023, in Madrid, Spain.  ((Photo By Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images))

A study released last month, which has not yet passed peer review, found ChatGPT was able to successfully complete Massachusetts Institute of Technology undergraduate courses in mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering. 

placeholderThe study – which was authored by 15 experts, including MIT professors – found the chatbot was able to answer questions for the curricula with 100% accuracy. Three MIT students who examined the methodology, however, claim they found “glaring problems” with the study that essentially allowed ChatGPT to cheat its way through the courses, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. 
GhatGPT openAI logo

ChatGPT logo and AI Artificial Intelligence words are seen in this illustration taken, May 4, 2023.  (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

Russell has urged caution amid AI’s explosion in use since the release of ChatGPT, heralding the tech as a tool that can help humanity flourish, but one that could also “wreak terrible harm.” Russell was one of the thousands of tech experts, leaders and others who signed an open letter calling for a pause on AI research at labs so policymakers and lab leaders can “develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design.”

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