It’s no question that Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and AI are transforming the world of education. But present circumstances — namely the Covid-19 pandemic — are offering the potential for IoT and AI to make even greater inroads in all fields. In the education field, from elementary school all the way through college — everything is changing.
Traditional learning patterns and classes have been upturned by the pandemic’s effects on the education system. Fortunately, many schools have been getting creative with their solutions. Unfortunately, the struggle to teach students in this new era is much more challenging than has previously been encountered.
The stage is set for a greater role to be played by AI and IoT in education in the near future. With the country’s education system weathering the Covid-19 pandemic, application and innovations in these two fields could influence schools in how they adapt to changing circumstances.
Here are some of the ways IoT and AI can help America’s education system manage the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
Education, IoT and AI in the Time of Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has placed unparalleled pressures on schools to adopt online learning. While making a switch from all-classroom to online learning is substantial and disruptive, virtual learning has numerous benefits. For example, online learning has been shown to help quieter students flourish, whereas they might flounder in traditional classroom settings. However, the forces of necessity and possible benefits converge when it comes to online learning.
The world watches the impact of Covid-19 on postsecondary schools — meaning, colleges and universities. These are overwhelmingly turning to online or to hybrid classrooms.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 34% of colleges are teaching classes primarily online, 21% in a hybrid format and 10% are fully online, equal to 65% of colleges represented in the study. This unprecedented use and reliance on online learning opens more doors to the proliferation of IoT and AI in education.
The Good News
Many implications for IoT application in education seem ideal for helping schools in their responses to Covid-19. For example, some beneficial applications of IoT include:
- Improving the safety of their campuses
- Keeping track of important resources
- Enhancing access to information
- Creating “smart lesson plans” as opposed to traditional, rather static, lesson plans of old
The wide proliferation of smartphones among students, people ages 17 and under, makes the application and adoption of IoT capabilities easier than ever before. The ground is already prepared for an even broader application of these technologies to the benefit of education.
Using IoT and AI for Smart Learning during the Pandemic
IoT has already had applications for education in the form of smart learning: A form of non-traditional learning that uses AI to help tailor and personalize lessons for students. Considering how different individual students are from one another, this kind of AI-powered tailoring of education could carry huge dividends.
Traditional learning comes with plenty of benefits but also flaws. We see learning of the past tends to be more general, constant, and doesn’t typically emphasize a self-development method, which would definitely benefit today’s world.
The emergency of Covid-19 and the resulting pandemic’s impact has put even greater stress on modifying traditional learning patterns as schools face unprecedented challenges to the norm.
As educational institutions and staff adapt to the challenges posed by Covid-19, now is the time to explore the potential of smart learning, including IoT and AI. Smart learning goals will help make online learning more engaging and will tailor to the variety of students in each class.
According to a survey, many schools have already adopted or intend to adopt smart school plans as part of their educational program:
- 9% of respondents reported they’ve already implemented parts of a smart school plan
- 3% of respondents said that they have plans in place to do so within the next one-to-three years.
- 29% of respondents reported that the concept of a smart school is entirely new to them
- 36% of respondents reported that they are only slightly aware of the topic.
Like any new or up-and-coming technological system, IoT and smart learning faces an uphill battle to mass adoption and application.
When societies live through unprecedented times, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic, they are often presented with the opportunity to experiment and test new technologies on a wider scale than usual in “normal” times.
IoT Can Help Schools Save Money
Students using smartphones and IoT can automate tasks they already do now, such as note-taking, schedule checking and research. However, a potentially major benefit, especially relevant in a world ravaged by Covid-19, is reducing costs.
IoT applications can lead to improved energy efficiency and reduced operating costs. For example, the New Richmond schools in Tipp City, Ohio, are already saving approximately $128,000 each year by using a web-based system that controls all mechanical equipment inside the buildings.
While keeping costs down is always an objective of schools, it has become even more urgent in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. A study by BrokeScholar found that colleges and universities all over have responded to the pandemic by furloughing and laying off staff in cities where the universities account for the plurality or even majority of employment.
Worse, many schools have gutted entire major and minor programs once offered. Thus, IoT application’s cost-saving implications in education could be a huge boon to colleges and universities that must manage their budget amid a seemingly unending pandemic.
Obstacles to IoT and AI in Education’s Covid-19 Response
One of the difficult areas of adapting education to smart schools is the cost in time and money. Though in the long term, wide adoption and use of IoT and AI in education systems can lead to big savings, in the short term, it, of course, requires an investment to convert schools to smart schools.
Many schools lack the immediate resources necessary to become a smart school.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about even greater, indeed unprecedented, financial pressure on schools. College administrations are being forced to furlough and lay off staff as well as shut down entire major and minor programs once offered.
Another obstacle is the divergent ways in which schools are reopening. Across the U.S., procedures and standards for reopening amid the Covid-19 pandemic vary from state to state, county to county, municipality to municipality, etc.
Schools that have reopened like business as usual likely won’t turn towards IoT and AI for their potential benefits in dealing with Covid-19. However, the schools that have instituted online-only or hybrid classes could be the ones that explore these technologies’ benefits more closely.
The Bottom Line
Unprecedented times often lead to the search for unprecedented solutions. The impact of Covid-19 and its fallout, even once a vaccine is officially greenlit for wide use, will be felt for many years.
Because the pandemic is putting such a strong emphasis on the use of online, virtual working and learning — right now is one of the most auspicious times for IoT and AI to get adopted by education systems more and more.
Another area that should not be overlooked when it comes to schools, AI, and IoT is their role in relation to the city, namely, the college town or suburb where schools reside.
School systems and colleges are inextricably linked to their cities’ economies. A downturn in the city’s economy can hurt the economic livelihood of the school while a downturn in the fortunes of a college. A decline in admissions or the disruption caused by Covid-19 will inevitably affect the city’s economic livelihood and its residents.
One possible way to manage the impact of Covid-19 is to harness the power of smart cities. Smart cities utilize IoT (Internet of Things) to gauge and meter devices like connected lights, meters, and sensors to collect and analyze data. Smart schools could combine data with smart cities to the benefit of the school and the community.
Combining both potential applications of these technologies could provide a novel method of combating the continuing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image Credit: armin rimoldi; pexels