Pandemic Learning Loss: Can AI Get Students Back on Track?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has left students socially isolated and struggling with knowledge gaps, but AI may help schools address these challenges, writes Aaron Rafferty, CEO of StandardDAO. Aaron explains how emerging technologies like virtual reality, gamification, and AI team-building could boost student engagement, motivation, and social-emotional skills. As schools seek solutions for pandemic-related learning loss, Rafferty argues AI tools can empower teachers to focus on students’ personal needs.

According to an article in “The 74,” a nonprofit news source that covers the US educational system: “A May 2022 survey found more than 80% of public schools reported ‘stunted behavioral and socioemotional development’ in their students because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Moreover, “70% of public schools reported that ‘the percentage of students who have sought mental health services increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.’”

As educators know better than anyone else, many of today’s students must also overcome subject-matter deficits. Even worse, some students who have fallen behind may never catch up, leading to lower standards of living later in life.

The good news is that artificial intelligence (AI) can help educators address these problems. Today’s technology can assist educators in resolving students’ curriculum-based and interpersonal needs. The result will be happier and more well-adjusted students who not only possess improved social and emotional resources but also learn at accelerated rates.

Boost student engagement with VR

Every teacher knows that students who aren’t engaged with course material don’t learn it. The first way the current AI technology boom can help learners, therefore, is through merging with virtual reality (VR).

VR opens up the possibility of immersive, interactive training simulations. Lessons that unfold via VR enable students to step through a portal into another world — a magical world limited only by curriculum developers’ imaginations. Settings and interactions are designed with an eye to the course content, helping students throw their whole bodies and minds into the lesson plan. Inspired by powerful feelings like wonder and fear, students engage with the material at a whole new level. Kinesthetic learners in particular benefit from this approach.

VR lessons can also be designed like video games, in which students become the heroes of their own stories, surrounded by virtual environments that support their whole-hearted participation with stimulating sensory input. This motivates them to tackle problems, develop skills, and “level up” by achieving learning objectives.

VR headsets are becoming less expensive, bringing these solutions within reach for a growing number of schools. Services also exist that help schools onboard and take advantage of these exciting devices.

Gamification increases student motivation

Teachers also understand that students must feel safe, secure, and valued in the classroom in order to learn. AI provides forms of gamification that would cultivate this kind of educational experience.

For instance, workplaces have begun using AI-assisted gamification to offer rewards programs to employees, tracking individuals’ progress and providing personalized incentives based on their performance and unique motivations.

The same tools could be used to good effect in educational institutions — AI could alleviate some of the burdens of monitoring student development from teachers. Such systems could also ensure that students are reliably and appropriately granted predetermined awards based on academic achievement milestones using badges or scoring systems.

These systems could be both systematic for the institution and customized for each student providing a level of specificity and engagement that is impossible in today’s academic system.

As a result, no student would ever fall through the cracks. Since everyone would get the same award for achieving the same goal, the rewards system would also be fair, and no student would ever feel like a teacher was displaying favoritism.

Gamification to forge classes into teams

AI has also proven its effectiveness in creating team-building activities. Some businesses have begun using AI to customize challenges that help teams solidify and work more effectively together. Schools could employ this approach as well. By participating in such activities, students would learn how to better interact with their classmates, thereby improving their social and emotional skills.

AI team-building exercises differ from the traditional versions teachers have been using all along by alleviating some of teachers’ workload. As the recently released ChatGPT demonstrates, today’s AI is smarter than ever and can respond in real-time, interacting with humans and making sophisticated adjustments at lightning speed. With students’ attention absorbed in a compelling, effective, and proven AI team-building exercise, teachers can claw time back from their busy schedules to complete the many tasks that compete for their attention.

The future of education

While the pandemic wrought real, quantifiable damage on today’s students, there are now solutions available that can help learners make rapid advancements in both subject matter and social-emotional competencies.

As a result of incorporating AI, teachers could return to focusing on what students need most — caring for them, understanding them, listening to them, counseling them, and developing innovative ways to meet their personal needs. In other words, AI would empower teachers to spend more time doing the activities they actually want to do, which are usually the reasons they got into the profession in the first place.

By leveraging recent advances in AI, schools at all levels and of all kinds can help students recover from the pandemic. Indeed, AI could soon become the new “teachers’ pet.”

Aaron Rafferty is the CEO of StandardDAO and Co-Founder of BattlePACs, a subsidiary of StandardDAO. An expert on cutting-edge technologies like Blockchain, AI, cloud computing, and social media, he builds products that enhance engagement and productivity for college students.

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