The role of Artificial Intelligence in Adult Basic Skills Education

Hello Integrating Technology Colleagues,

This is a new thread, one which I expect may become increasingly important in the near future. Artificial Intelligence is becoming more widespread in K-12 and higher education, and apparently it has a rapidly growing market in both these arenas, but what is happening with AI in adult basic skills education? That's the topic of this discussion thread. If you are using AI applications or are planning to use them in adult basic skills (including English language learning) tell us about what and how you are using it. If you have questions about AI, pose them in this discussion and we'll try to get answers for you.

To start things off, in an article entitled Global Artificial Intelligence Boom Predicted in Education, Particularly in China in EdWeek's Market Brief today I note the following that may be of interest: 

A report, from a "market research firm, HolonIQ, examines the evolution of AI from K-12 through higher education and into adult professional and corporate learning."

"The report noted five core areas where AI technology is being developed and used for education:

  • Vision—Emotion recognition is used to detect confusion and engagement, with identity management applications for testing and virtual learning.
  • Voice—Text-to-voice interfaces are utilized to support learning activities, particularly literacy and language learning.
  • Natural Language—Deciphering human language is a complex AI challenge. However, this technique is emerging in assessment, feedback, and plagiarism detection.
  • Algorithms—This “machine learning” is being applied to create personalized, adaptive learning paths for students.
  • Hardware—Smart devices, robotics, laboratory technology, and software systems are all being powered by AI."

"The report notes six areas where AI is creating value in education:

1. Learning processes: This area covers intelligent classrooms, adaptive and personalized content for students, robotics, and language learning with virtual tutors.

2. Assessment and feedback: AI is automating and personalizing assessments, giving feedback on written work, and helping students plan assessment tasks.

3. Learner/talent acquisitions: Organizations and institutions are using AI technology to find and retain students and employees. Universities are using it in admissions to match applicants with requirements, using chatbots to answer student questions, and organizations are using the technology to better hire professional employees and find talent.

4. Administration/business processes: AI technologies are helping to ease the burden of administrative processes and grapple with the massive amounts of data that schools and districts collect. AI is helping to identify and predict risks, automating services, and streamlining administrative tasks.

5. Language learning: AI is assessing students’ current knowledge and learning capabilities, delivering adaptive content based on learning patterns and providing feedback using speech-recognition technology.

6. Corporate training: AI is “set to revolutionize corporate training” the report finds, with personalized, adaptive supports and real-time monitoring of daily workflow to close gaps between training and performance."

Which of these five core areas, or six areas of added value, would be of interest to you and your adult basic skills colleagues, and why?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group




Hello Integrating Technology Colleagues,

I have searched LINCS CoP discussions on artificial intelligence, and below are what I believe to be the most relevant of these. In some discussions questions are asked. You could respond to them within that discussion thread, or re-post the question and reply to it in this one.

Welcome to first day of discussion on “How can technology transform adult education and current practice?”  Sep 18, 2013

This is a long LINCS discussion that has had 45726 Views, and 62 Comments.

NPR Reports: What Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) Could Mean For Education March 18, 2016

National Public Radio (NPR) recently ran the story, What Artificial Intelligence Could Mean For Education, which asks several interesting questions based an A.I. computer system's victory over the world's best player of an ancient strategy game called simply, Go.

The following is excerpted from the full NPR article.

What could A.I. technologies do for human education? How should human education respond to the challenges posed by A.I.?  Pearson, the world's largest education company, has just issued a pamphlet from its research division titled Intelligence Unleashed: An argument for A.I. in Education.  

One great fear when it comes to the Pearson vision of AIEd is that we reproduce existing inequalities. Some students get individualized attention from highly skilled human teachers who use the best learning software available to inform their practice. Other students get less face time with lower-skilled teachers plus TutorBots that imperfectly simulate human interaction.

What are your thoughts on this article?  How do you think A.I. will impact our adult learners?  How is it already impacting the technology you're using in the classroom now?

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways and Disabilities in Adult Education Moderator

Will technology and artificial intelligence replace teachers? October 6, 2018

I invite you to read Smart Machines and Human Expertise: Challenges for Higher Education.

The author, Diana Oblinger, poses the following question. "If smart machines are having such impact on the economy and our professions, what will they mean to higher education?".

She provided examples from Georgia Tech who used a chatbox as a teaching assistant. Her examples of international uses of combined chatboxes, AI recognition, and predictive analysis to offer a layer of student services. So what happens when we shift the focus from teachers integrating technology in instruction versus institutions using technology to deliver instruction?

What are the implications for our field? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

To access the full article, select this link:

Kathy Tracey


David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

I would be interested in learning more about Algorithms and how they are being applied to create personalized and adaptive learning paths for individual learners. I think this will be very valuable for the teacher in designing engaging learner-centered instruction Adult Education Teacher Competencies. Learners are at different instructional levels. Learners will be able to work at their own pace and engage with materials that are appropriately challenging. I am interested in Learning processes and Language learning.

You raise an important question: What AI algorithms are implemented  in today's adaptive instructional systems that use AI, as in the case of intelligent tutoring systems.  For a very in-depth answer to this question, I urge you to ready the 25th anniversary issue of the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education in 2018.  The 25 major developers provide updates on their systems in these articles.  I would also recommend the book series in the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring (GIFT) that can be downloaded for free at There are 7 edited books that focus on learner modeling, instructional strategies, authoring tools, domain models, assessment, team learning, and self-organizing systems.  These two outlets cover the best work in AI applications to learning.  For a simple overview of the field, take a look at:

Graesser, A.C., Hu, X., & Sottilare, R. (2018).  Intelligent tutoring systems.  In F. Fischer, C. E. Hmelo-Silver, S. R. Goldman, and P. Reimann (Eds.), International handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 246-255).  New York: Routledge. 

Let me also give a brief answer to your question.  There are two major classes of AI Algorithms.  The first consists of several intelligent algorithms that have been developed by AI researchers over the last 30 years (such as Bayes networks, context-sensitive production rules, concept networks); these are very systematic, based on theoretical learning principles, and take some time to develop.  The second class off algorithms are machine learning algorithms (with reinforcement learning, often with neural networks -- Deep Learning) that are applied to very large databases on very specific subject matters.  These are essentially engineering solutions that may lack theoretical foundations and cannot explain its reasoning.  However, these can be developed very quickly, but only if there are huge databases.  At this point some people are making attempts to combine the two classes of AI approaches.

But there is one other point to make:  Human instructors are always needed in these advanced learning environments!  This raises today's major question of how to train instructors to weave in the technologies into their instructional design.  



Hello Art,

Bayo Adetunji asked about how algorithms are being applied to create personalized and adaptive learning paths for individual learners. Could you suggest articles or recent books for teachers and program managers who may be new to AI, that describe some of the education applications, and how teachers are using these in the classroom or for blended learning. Perhaps you could suggest an introductory article or videos about AutoTutor, that you and your team at the Institute for Intelligent Systems at the University of Memphis have developed, and that has been used as part of the IES-funded Center for the Study of Adult Literacy (CSAL). at Georgia state University.

Also, I see that the 2018  International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in education, Volume 28 has four issues. Are there particular issues or articles that you would suggest for starters?


David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group


I'm interested in analytics and how algorithms could be used to to streamline the process for students to reach their goals. I researched search engines, language, and images, but it was more on the language side (e.g., what words would people use to search for abstract ideas like happy or shoes?). I'm really rusty at be honest, crusty bc it's been a while. I have experience with NLP work too and have been teaching myself python, and I think some machine learning would be really helpful.

Is there a way we could maybe create a working group to explore some of these ideas or does anyone recommend one? 

The word algorithms gets put out there so much, it feels disconnected from what it can do. I imagine a lot of teachers already do a lot of the same work without realizing it. So if a student comes and wants to get a diploma, you can assess things like some specific level of education, type of learner, disability, contextual factors (childcare, unemployed, etc). What I think working together with teachers is finding a way to see what factors are the ones that have the most predictive value. One of the most important things with it is to use the student input to craft categories that are useful. If Netlfix predicts that I'm someone who like British Dramas with a Strong Female Lead, then using their own language, there would be a way to create categories that are like Single Mom Who Wants to be a Nurse or Hands-on Learning is my Thing. 

I saw this article the other day and thought it was interesting. It's Using AI to Help Students "How to College." College as a verb was a nice touch. It has this list of examples and I've been thinking of what kind of technology would improve the outcomes: 

Clearly, we must teach students how to better navigate college as a system. Consider the following common scenarios:

A teenager, the first in her family to be accepted into a college, grows frustrated with the byzantine financial aid process and simply gives up before her first day of class.
A sophomore struggles to find an affordable place to live off-campus.
A working mother repeatedly skips class because she is unable to find short-term care for her children.

This short article  "What Is Artificial Intelligence? Examples and News in 2019" from TheStreet gives a readable summary of what AI is, its major types, its history, how we currently use it, and major news about AI in 2019.

Is this article helpful? Any surprises? What are your thoughts about AI after reading it, especially about its applications in education?

David J. Rosen. Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group