TBY talks to Abdul Rehman Shaikh, Vice President of Education e-Solutions, on the role of AI, higher education, and the teaching profession in Saudi Arabia.

What is the role of AI in education, and what are the future skills that are associated with AI?

In recent years, we have seen the adoption of AI applications, especially in the segment of computer vision, voice recognition, translations, and medicine. Today, education is the next sector bound to be redefined by AI. This is true especially through the adoption of machine learning (ML), which further branches out to supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning. While the first two categories are tackled through the provision of preventive and corrective interventions, respectively, reinforcement learning, on the other hand, works on concept of a dynamic path based on rewards, learning tasks, and skills achievements. As such, the progressive and comprehensive nature of AI requires a different set of skills to be developed in order to be able to contribute to its development, adjust in the job market, and live fully and comfortably. These three types of skills correspond to three equal levels of knowledge of AI per se, but they all assume a certain basic degree of understanding of the matter to embrace the modern era ahead of us.

What are the key aspects students will encounter in an AI-dominated higher education program?

The benefits of AI and its impacts on the student experience across higher education are multiple, but perhaps they could be summed up into seven points." The benefits of AI and its impacts on the student experience across higher education are multiple, but perhaps they could be summed up into seven points. First of all, AI will change student lives by providing deep insights into academics and extra-curricular activities. Second, it will help students grow through expanded peer and social learning. Third, it will give prominence to awards and rewards since AI is becoming a growth enabler for success. Moreover, it will help students complete pre-requisites more easily as it acts as post-class tutor. It will also improve the processes of routine tasks and operations such as assignments and syllabus progression. AI will also allow for the integration of added-value practices such as institutionalizing student-led weekly or monthly class summaries and delivering lessons more seamlessly with real-time transcriptions in major languages. Finally, it will be used comprehensively across the accreditation, graduation and recruitment sphere, simplifying processes and increasing objectivity in making decisions. For these reasons, embedding AI into teaching curricula through supervised and unsupervised learning and incorporating AI technologies within learning environments are two essential steps to empower stakeholders in the education sector.

How do you expect the relationship between teachers and students to evolve in the medium term?

Rather than a threat to the teaching body, AI represents a great tool for teachers to harness and engage with as they work toward the development of their students. In this sense, AI will not replace teachers, but will connect teachers and students making learning more relevant and authentic. Students will be able to connect with AI as a companion that will provide feedback them, track them against other peers to have a clear path of their progress. AI will also provide personalized tutoring to reinforce skills or master ideas before an exam, providing students with the dynamic set of learning tools they will need for college success. Grading and academic advising can also be highly improved with AI, as it will allow students to be assessed through an automated system based on Rubrics for standardization processes and improve access to feedback and counseling through chatbots.