AI tools such as ChatGPT are now a staple in the classroom for many students, sparking an industry-wide debate on whether the use of AI tools has a positive or negative impact on student learning. Is it possible for AI to support student learning and growth? In Singapore, the government has shown interest in developing this further, as Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and the Ministry of Education recently worked with AI Singapore to establish the AI Centre for Educational Technologies (AICET) to explore the possibilities of AI integration into the local education system.

But what does this mean for education in Southeast Asia? We wanted to find out more and spoke to Ethan Li from MaivenPoint. As the Chief Strategy Officer at the company, Ethan drives the overarching business and product strategies by collaborating with business development, marketing, and product R&D teams. These solutions are centred on learning management, student information systems, digital assessment management, and enterprise business applications.

Ethan shared his insights into the current state of AI in education, as well as the future of the industry as technology evolves within education.

Can you explain the current usage of AI in education?

AI holds tremendous potential in the realm of education, benefiting both learners and educators alike. For learners and students, generative AI models like ChatGPT are becoming increasingly popular. However, this rise in usage has also sparked conversations about plagiarism and the authenticity of content.

Not only do students stand to gain from the advancements of AI in education, but educators can also reap significant benefits. Take ChatGPT, for instance; it can serve as a powerful assistive lesson tool for educators, enabling them to generate discussion topics, quizzes, and assignments on the fly, especially within the framework of a flipped classroom approach.

Edutech Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms, like MaivenPoint, are harnessing the capabilities of generative AI to automate critical learning and administrative tasks. This not only expedites the digital transformation journey but also introduces a myriad of AI-driven solutions that are proving invaluable to educational institutions. Some of these include:

  • Personalised skills-based course recommendations – By integrating generative AI into their course search engines, students can now search for courses and programmes based on their aspirations and goals.
  • Enhancing productivity in learning administration – AI allows educational institutions to streamline tasks like application assessments, thereby reducing the administrative burden on registrars and student services teams.
  • Holistically optimising student success – MaivenPoint’s AI-powered approach elevates student engagement and achievement. This is evident in features such as AI-supported grading, AI-facilitated exam monitoring, and seamless integration with platforms like Turnitin.

Although AI has yet to be fully incorporated into learning management systems to drive smart learning experiences, there is concern about Generative AI affecting student originality. 

As advanced AI makes plagiarism detection more difficult in exams and entrance application submissions, institutions face challenges. These institutions will need to update both their technology and policies to manage AI’s impact on education and strike a balanced approach. 

How do you foresee the education industry in the next 24 months when it comes to AI?

Educational institutions across the globe are awakening to the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

However, given budgetary constraints, pinpointing where AI can deliver the most profound effects on learning experiences, operational efficiency, and revenue stability becomes crucial. 

With the rising emphasis on continuous learning and upskilling, AI will become a game-changer in the educational sector. By learning how to best leverage generative AI, institutions can tailor course pathways, streamline administrative processes, and maximise student success.

In terms of teaching pedagogy, we will see an increased use of AI to guide students to ask ‘why’, to question the ‘how’ in learning, rather than memorising facts. 

MaivenPoint is already enhancing its Chatbot to be an AI learning companion that focuses on students’ metacognition, cyber wellness, and personalised and peer learning experiences. Educators can leverage learning bots to revise topics they teach and manage young students’ time spent online. As it continues to progress, enhanced speech-to-text capabilities of AI tools can eventually help young learners to develop literacy through conversational Q&A and infuse gamification to encourage learning and discovery. 

AI will also be used to enhance user navigation, to help learners navigate essential materials and diverse learning activities (quizzes, assessments, projects, self-learning etc) easily across digital repositories to gain better control over their pace and quality of learning. 

Institutions will have to deal with a growing student base that consists of more digital natives – students that have grown up with apps, extensions, and a whole gamut of tech-augmented tools. To provide a truly engaging learning experience, institutions will need to use AI to understand and predict what students want and need.

Do you foresee any ethical or negative impact from increasing the usage of AI tools in the industry?

AI can make manual business processes more efficient, which doesn’t always mean replacing people, but improving the quality of their work. For instance, the usual exam preparation process can be automated, reducing the need for manual coordination among question writers and multiple reviews by different parties. Rather than replacing jobs, it shortens the exam preparation process, enhances productivity for education institutions, and avails more time for administrators to focus on quality checks and refinement.  

Figure: Stakeholders involved in any examination process

AI proctoring has digitally transformed the current processes for many accreditation organisations that have to manage the renewal of certifications for professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants etc. What used to be a man-intensive multi-week assessment operation, can now be effectively carried out by a more streamlined team, and shortening the planning cycle. A case in point would be how MaivenPoint’s AI remote proctoring tool helps professionals situated in remote islands renew their certifications remotely, ensuring credibility and authenticity in the certification process.

AI coupled with access to multiple data points, creates instant co-relation to derive insights on user behaviour. In most cases, this is best harnessed by organisations to personalise services for their consumers. 

For example, MaivenPoint has infused AI recommendations into our course browser to elicit what would be most relevant for learners as they gain skills through certification, where AI recommendations are infused with the context of each learner’s aspirational goals as well as their individual learning pathways. 

When the use of AI is aligned with the intended objective of the service platform to which consumers subscribe, it remains a limitless hyper-personalisation tool to enhance the consumer experience. 

However, it can also turn into a gaping vulnerability when information is poorly gated. Organisations that use AI need to understand that it is a double-edged sword and thread the fine line between invasion of privacy vs personalisation of services, with the right information and cyber-security infrastructure in place to ensure data is used appropriately and ethically.  

How far behind is Southeast Asia as a whole when it comes to the use of AI in education?

Across SEA, the reception to AI in education is varied, with a cautious yet growing inclination towards its integration into educational tools and platforms. 

Nations like Singapore and Indonesia are embracing the use of generative AI to enhance learning experiences. For instance, in February 2023, Singapore’s Education Minister advocated for AI’s role in aiding students to refine their work, drawing parallels to how calculators aid in math. 

As far back as 2021, AI Singapore founded the AI Centre for Educational Technologies (AICET), a research centre which currently partners with the Ministry of Education and the National University of Singapore to launch AI projects that will improve the education system locally. Meanwhile, in May 2023, Jakarta’s Education Office hosted a digital training for educators, promoting the guided use of AI tools in student learning. 

Conversely, countries like Malaysia remain sceptical, with many equating the use of generative AI to plagiarism.

The adoption of AI for educational purposes has encountered significantly less resistance. Understanding the need for digital transformation, Singapore’s six premier higher education institutions have collaborated with MaivenPoint to launch an integrated SaaS training management platform tailored for career professionals. Slated for release in 2023, this platform will be enhanced with the AI capabilities of Vitae. 

This AI-driven platform will offer over 100,000 learners a catalogue of 44,000 courses, equipping them with a range of professional skills in both online and hybrid learning settings. As the educational landscape in SEA continues to mature, we see top-tier institutions across the region inevitably gravitating towards digital transformation, with AI poised as a pivotal catalyst.

The region still has strides to make, particularly in shifting perceptions around issues like plagiarism, before fully welcoming the role of generative AI in education.

What’s next for AI in education?

Here are 3 key opportunities we see on the horizon for the future of AI in education.

The first is that AI is an opportunity to empower modern learners. The emerging trend in the future of AI application in education involves a shift in perspective, where AI is embraced as a means to empower modern learners. This new mindset recognises AI, like ChatGPT, as a valuable resource akin to a condensed textbook, streamlining information from various sources and saving valuable time.

While considerations may arise for prohibiting ChatGPT’s use in top-tier examinations, especially those emphasising original responses, its role in education and knowledge acquisition is substantial. ChatGPT stands as a potent tool to enrich the learning journey, enhancing the overall educational experience.

This shift implies a novel approach to question formulation, tapping into students’ intellectual capacities by reshaping queries. Rather than confining access to universal knowledge, educational institutions can liken ChatGPT to an innovative textbook. This innovation not only minimises the effort and time required for research but also enables learners to delve into a broader realm of knowledge beyond the classroom setting.

An illustrative strategy emerges, whereby community-based learning shifts towards a flipped classroom model, fostering in-person engagements centred around real-world challenges and practical applications. While measures to restrict AI applications like ChatGPT might find their place in high-stakes examinations, aimed at preserving answer authenticity, replicating such restrictions in broader learning scenarios contradicts the fundamental essence of education and knowledge acquisition.

Secondly, you can promote collaborative, critical thinking powered by AI. It is no longer seen as just a tool for students; it’s becoming a catalyst that nurtures collaborative, critical thinking, shaping the forthcoming landscape of education. Educators are harnessing the capabilities of AI tools such as ChatGPT, to curate captivating discussions, quizzes, and assignments. This strategic incorporation liberates their time, ushering in a new era where educators guide students not just through content, but through the art of nuanced thinking. 

Empowered by AI’s capabilities, educators orchestrate a dynamic classroom where students navigate a sea of information, unpick complex issues, and cultivate a comprehensive grasp of their subjects. In this fresh pedagogical paradigm, educators ingeniously reimagine assessment methods, embedding AI as a collaborative learning ally while challenging students to apply their knowledge in the practical realm of real-world challenges.

An additional advantage of integrating AI, such as ChatGPT, lies in honing collaborative and critical thinking skills among students. Gaining proficiency in assessing and scrutinising ChatGPT-generated responses proves highly advantageous, fostering an atmosphere of teamwork and analytical prowess. The process encourages students to delve into research and engage in classroom deliberations, delving into diverse perspectives and discerning the credibility of information. It is acknowledged that ChatGPT’s knowledge foundation derives from a wide array of sources, potentially lacking full academic validation. This scenario underscores the significance of classroom interactions, where the veracity of information is validated through a research-driven methodology.

Holistic integration of AI into the student journey has tremendous potential in how the technology can holistically optimise student success. As student management platforms are digitally enhanced, institutions will have a richer set of data across the student learning cycle from application to enrolment, learning, assessment, and eventually graduation. AI-assisted predictive analysis can be utilised to enhance student progress, application success, application screening productivity, and the quality of programmes or teaching.  

For example, having the right combination of data around a student’s learning completion, assessment submissions, attendance rate, payment timeliness could provide insights into their probability of graduation. These insights empower institutions to offer early interventions and support tailored to each student’s needs, ensuring higher student completion rates. For example, detect students’ tendency to drop out of programmes possibly due to financial difficulty, and offer targeted financial aid programmes to help them continue their studies.