Can Artificial Intelligence Predict Student Engagement?
Artificial intelligence is having a huge impact on education, transforming the sector in many positive ways and its impact is growing. In fact, the artificial intelligence sector in the U.S. education market is expected to grow 47.5% between 2017 and 2021 according to the latest market research report by Technavio.
Artificial intelligence is changing how teachers are doing their jobs and how students are learning and studying. AI makes personalized learning possible, can assist teachers with curriculum adaptationand streamline administrative tasks. Now, scientists are trying to find out if the technology can be leveraged to measure student engagement.
University of Montreal partners with edtech company for research
Researchers at the University of Montreal are partnering with the award-winning education technology company, Classcraft, to explore the use of artificial intelligence to measure student engagement. Classcraft is an edtech company based in Quebec- and New York City.
Classcraft launched its proprietary Engagement Management System (EMS) in June 2018. The system uses video games to help educators drive measurable academic performance, non-cognitive skills development, and school climate. By blending students’ physical and virtual learning, the program reframes their progress in school as a game they play together throughout the year. According to the company, the system is used by more than 5 million students and educators worldwide in more than 160 countries and is available in 11 languages.
The study is part of a broader trend to use software and data to help schools improve school climate and student well-being, notes Edweek, adding that there are questions around the impact on teacher’s practice, on kids and the possibility that the software could make mistakes, not to speak of the problems with student privacy.
The Classcraft engagement management system
The Classcraft engagement management system lets educators give groups of students points for positive, supportive behavior which helps the system track positive traits like collaboration or empathy. The data is then made available to educators. However, the software currently does not predict how the points may affect the class over time, nor does it make any suggestions on what to do to improve engagement.
“What we want to be able to do is to help interpret that data and to be able to understand what’s happening in the classroom and from there to be able to make recommendations to teachers and principals and students about how they can course-correct their practices to have better outcomes,” Young told Edweek.
For example, the program may be able to tell educators under what conditions student engagement is seen to go down and suggest what approach to take instead. The study will also evaluate the effect of Classcraft’s suggestions on student behavior, in other words, whether those suggestions actually improve student behavior. The research won’t be able to predict trends related to individuals, just a whole class or a group of students and the information will be anonymous and encrypted.
Still, the idea of collecting data about the general atmosphere or climate in a school classroom leaves some observers uncomfortable. Is it really wise to trust students’ social development to the judgment of algorithms? Surely not.