Emerging Technologies

Professor Robot – why AI could soon be teaching in university classrooms

iPal social robots, designed by AvatarMind, are seen at an assembly plant in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China July 4, 2018. Designed to offer education, care and companionship to children and the elderly, the 3.5-feet tall humanoid robots come in two genders and can tell stories, take photos and deliver educational or promotional content. Picture taken July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song - RC1E55FB7F00

Higher education might be affected by disruptive technologies earlier than other sectors. Image: REUTERS/Aly Song

Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Emerging Technologies?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Artificial Intelligence is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Artificial Intelligence

The number of robots around the world is increasing rapidly. And it’s said that automation will be threatening more than 800m jobs worldwide by 2030. In the UK, it’s claimed robots will replace 3.6m workers by this date, which means one in five British jobs would be performed by an intelligent machine.

Jobs in higher education are no exception – with recent studies showing a rapid advancement in the use of these technologies in universities. The full potential of these disruptive technologies is yet to be discovered, but their impact on teaching and learning is expected to be huge. This means that higher education might be affected by these technologies earlier than other sectors.

Artificial intelligence is set to have a significant impact. And not just on teaching and learning, but also on the whole student experience – innovation infused with traditional academic processes. This will change the classroom experience and how universities communicate with students, with lectures and marking potentially done by robots.

Robot teachers

For academics, this rise in artificial intelligence, robotics and intelligent tutoring systems, may well mean that having the required experience and teaching skills are no longer enough. And the already apparent lack of digital skills among some academics may make it easier for universities to look to robots as an alternative.

“Yuki”, the first robot lecturer, was introduced in Germany in 2019 and has already started delivering lectures to university students at The Philipps University of Marburg. The robot acts as a teaching assistant during lectures. He can get a sense of how students are doing academically, and what kind of support they need. He can also have them take tests. Some students have found Yuki useful – despite the fact he still requires some significant improvements to be fully functional.

Image: DW

Robots, combined with artificial intelligence, are expected to improve teaching by providing greater levels of individualised learning, objective and timely grading, as well as having the ability to identify areas of improvements in degree programmes. This may very well leave less room for actual humans to carry out the job – and will no doubt have a major impact on the job description of academics in universities.

It may also mean that when the robots move in, conducting research and contributing to knowledge creation might be the only way for academics to sustain their jobs and increase the chances of employability, retention and career development.

Have you read?

Research of the future

According to the latest Research Futures report from Elsevier and Ipsos MORI, the research ecosystem will have significant changes in the future thanks to new technologies – in terms of open access publishing, funding opportunities and links to the technology industry. The report also suggests that Eastern countries such as China will have an increased focus on research and development.

The speed and volume of research will also change massively. Big data analytics and artificial intelligence will be able to present a large amount of findings directly to researchers at a very fast pace. And it is predicted there will also be a move towards a more open system in terms of funding, data collection and publishing open access articles.

So for academics, it may well be that a move towards knowledge creation through research rather than teaching might be the best way for job sustainability in higher education in the near future. This could mean that for academics, it will become more important than ever to focus on research. And while this could free academics up to use their expertise for the benefit of society, it remains to be seen whether robots can inspire the next generation in the same way.

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Emerging TechnologiesFourth Industrial RevolutionEducation and Skills
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

South Korean nuclear fusion reactor sets new record, and other technology news you need to know

Sebastian Buckup

April 19, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum