This fall, the U.S. Department of Education released its latest report card on the state of learning, showing large declines in fourth and eighth grade math and reading scores between 2019 to 2022, while COVID-19 pandemic protocols were in place.
With a quick pivot to online learning at the height of the pandemic, analyzing the impacts of learning loss, and how to reverse it, has been a major area of focus for Sang-Pil Han, an associate professor of information systems in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, whose research focuses on artificial intelligence, digital platforms and educational technologies.
In a new interdisciplinary paper, Han and his co-authors detail their research using QANDA, an AI-based learning app by Mathpresso Inc. Han, who is an advisor for Mathpresso, and his colleagues, found that AI learning apps like QANDA can help close the learning loss gap for K–12 students, especially if there’s an immediate goal, like taking a college placement exam.
But as Han points out, the pandemic will not be the only disruption in education going forward. Yes, the world may have to brace for another pandemic, but there’s also the reality of climate disasters, wherein classes could be canceled for, let’s say, a hurricane, like families in Florida recently experienced with Hurricane Ian.
Then, there’s equity in education. Han explains why AI-powered learning apps serve students more broadly, and how they can deliver for businesses too.
Question: Why are AI-based apps more effective at closing the learning loss gap than, let’s say, a tutor?
Answer: AI-based learning apps provide student-tailored educational content at an affordable price, with a few screen touches from their comfortable locations, without interruptions, at their own pace, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as long as students have internet connectivity. In this regard, the benefits of AI-powered learning apps can be summarized in five aspects: 1) affordability (cost-saving), 2) actionability (less time/effort required), 3) accommodability (personalized experience), 4) assurance (reliability and consistency in service) and 5) accessibility (greater reach to educational resources).
In addition to the aforementioned five “A’s,” from an efficacy and experiential perspective, for certain segments of students, AI-based learning apps are more effective. For example, Gen Z’s simply learn not only more effectively but also (more enjoyably) when they interact with AI technology. Especially for resource-strapped students who cannot afford personal tutors or who live in remote locations where accessibility to tutors or test-prep institutions are limited, AI-based learning apps are essential in the sense (that they) close the existing learning app.
Q: Does this research suggest that AI-based apps will be essential to everyday learning, regardless of whether we are in a pandemic?
A: Yes, we see this at ASU and at other universities. The pandemic has been an inflection point that has accelerated and shaped the landscape of many industries, including the education sector, not only in hybrid working but also in hybrid learning.
Q: The pandemic won’t be the last disruptor in education. How can this technology aid students and industry alike?
A: Global pandemics and natural disasters derail students’ learning paths and lead to dire economic and social consequences. Our research shows that AI-powered learning apps can play a pivotal role in mitigating learning loss under such adverse conditions. Our study provides implications for businesses as well as to policymakers and administrators. For investors, investment in edtech firms will help achieve the double bottom line of financial and social objectives. For policymakers and administrators, AI should be given serious consideration as the next frontier in leveling the playing field by advancing equity in education.
Top photo courtesy Pixabay
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Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.When Tyler Richey-Yowell signed up for physics during high school in her hometown of Chesapeake, Virginia, she didn’t expect to discover how much she loved learning how physics could explain how everything worked, from dropping a pencil to how our universe formed.As her interest grew, she decided to st…
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.
When Tyler Richey-Yowell signed up for physics during high school in her hometown of Chesapeake, Virginia, she didn’t expect to discover how much she loved learning how physics could explain how everything worked, from dropping a pencil to how our universe formed.
As her interest grew, she decided to study observational astronomy and attend Arizona State University for the invaluable connection to the telescope system in Arizona and Chile. This past summer, Richey-Yowell graduated from the School of Earth and Space Exploration with a PhD in astrophysics, and will walk at commencement this fall.
“I learned how much fun it is to be wrong,” Richey-Yowell said. “When I first started my research, we had a pretty good expectation for what the results would show. But it turned out to be something totally different — there was cool physics happening that our field was just starting to figure out, and my results were a part of that!”
Richey-Yowell credits her advisor Evgenya Shkolnik, associate professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, for teaching her the skills of how to be a researcher and the joy in discovering new things. “I first met Tyler when she applied to join my group at ASU,” said Shkolnik. “When I asked her what talks she found interesting at a recent conference, she pulled out a notebook with many pages of notes, and shared insightful observations, along with very perceptive questions. I was immediately impressed!”
Richey-Yowell was also a recipient of the Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) award, focusing on the ultraviolet radiation around K stars and the potential habitability of planets orbiting these types of stars.
Since graduation, Richey-Yowell has joined the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, as the first Percival Lowell Postdoctoral Fellow, where she continues to study the evolution of stars and what this means for planetary habitability. Her advice to others still in school is: “Make sure you have a good advisor who will support you and find a great research group to lean on and learn from throughout grad school. Also, having at least one non-academic-related hobby is a good way to maintain a nice life balance.”
We asked her to share some thoughts about her time here at ASU.
Question: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
Answer: Walking into ISTB4 and seeing the rover replica and the Psyche replica always reminded me that I was a part of something bigger in trying to understand our universe.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I think that there is a big issue with communication in our society. I would love to create spaces to talk about and learn from each other about the connections between science, religion, art, community, etc., and to show that these things do fit together and depend on each other, rather than being separate issues.
Digital communications specialist, School of Earth and Space Exploration
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