How artificial intelligence improves learning

Young African-American student works with robotic arm project and virtual reality.
© Getty Images/eyesfoto

Personalised syllabuses, automated test evaluations or robots in foreign language tuition: there are various ways in which artificial intelligence can optimise the learning process. It is nevertheless appropriate to also consider the risks as well as the opportunities that arise from these new technologies.

Even if we aren’t always aware of it: artificial intelligence (AI) has become an indispensable part of everyday life for many people. ; we can even use AI-supported face recognition to unlock our smartphones. AI equally comes to the fore in marketing, navigation systems and internet search engines. German higher education institutions are also conducting research into various applications relevant to the education sector. The tools set innovative learning scenarios and interactions in motion and are not tied to human time and resources.

How AI promotes individual learning progress

‘The major opportunity provided by AI is its tailored advancement of each individual’, says Johannes Schleiss, doctoral candidate in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. Effective learning requires an understanding of the learners’ individual circumstances. Programmes such as Learning Analytics therefore initially undertake a detailed analysis of learners’ data, which enables the next step to include individualised learning plans and the monitoring of learning progress. E-learning platforms also give learners automatic feedback that can help identify weak points and thus optimise learning outcomes. ‘AI can also predict which students are at a higher risk of abandoning their studies’, Schleiss explains. ‘This could enable higher education institutions to intervene at an early stage and provide preventative support to those concerned.’   

How AI improves learning

Teaching staff can also benefit from AI: for instance with automated evaluation of tests and assignments, identification of learning issues and personalised adaptation of course material. The fact that AI can make foreign language teaching more fun becomes apparent at Finnish schools. This is where the humanoid robot Elias assists adults and children to learn vocabulary or gain grammar skills. ‘The Scandinavian countries are pioneers at international level in providing digital equipment to schools and in the integration of technical opportunities into teaching’, states Schleiss. The development of AI and its integration into the education sector is also being advanced in the USA: a study project being conducted by North Carolina State University involves high school classes learning how to deal with AI and using the ‘StoryQ’ program to create their own projects. Pupils can refer to the Khan Academy's ‘Khanmigo’ learning portal free of charge if they are having problems with maths and German. Personal assistants draw attention to incorrect research results, for example, and also identify the root cause of the error. This supportive assistance enable learners to sustainably improve their skills.  

Studying AI Engineering

Studying AI Engineering
Studying AI Engineering ©

Risks of AI in didactics

Using AI in the education sector nevertheless also involves social challenges. Access to technical innovations and end devices like mobile phones or tablets is dependent on financial budgets – and is thus also an aspect of social justice. , explains Schleiss. ‘If we rely ever more heavily on linguistic models, for example, we could potentially in the long term lose the ability to write faultlessly, independently formulate texts or critically scrutinise generated content. We are therefore exposing ourselves to a destructive dependency.’

When AI pushes the limits in didactics

Other risks including the violation of individual rights, data protection or the right to privacy become apparent based on the example of China: in addition to programs like Squirrel AI Learning, which records learning speed and produces individual learning profiles, use is sometimes made of AI-supported systems that monitor and analyse pupils’ behaviour. Cameras for instance use face recognition to register whether they are focused on the task or bored, and whether they arrive punctually to classes. The intention here is for the monitoring to serve as a tool for comprehensive optimisation: teachers can evaluate their class more accurately and potentially adapt their teaching methods; pupils should be given the incentive to step up their efforts.

Project work rather than bachelor thesis

Despite the concerns, the technological possibilities of AI-based tools have also resulted in a rethink in Europe: Prague University of Economics and Business is from winter semester 2024 to dispense with a bachelor´s thesis for its business management study programme and examine its students based on project work. ‘A Germany-wide study by Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences revealed that more than two-thirds of students use ChatGPT or other generative search programs to write academic texts, explain facts or for translation,’ says Schleiss.

How AI can accelerate reform of the examination system

Rather than banning generative AI at German higher education institutions, he advocates proactively considering and integrating AI’s opportunities even in the context of exams. ‘Students should be able to use tools for reference, albeit they must learn to use AI-based content in a critical manner’, he says. He sees it as important that the process is actively managed – beyond mere reliance on the technology. ‘AI can then accelerate reform of the examination system that has been in place at our higher education institutions for a number of years.’


  • David


    It is a very interesting topic that will help university academics.

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