ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE & The Rise of the Learning Machines: What Technology Evangelists Need to Know (From an Early Adopter)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 3/23/17.

I was one of the first professors (an adjunct actually) that was trained to teach online at IWU. This fall as IWU rolls out a new online learning system (called BrightSpace) I’ve been thinking back to the several (maybe more) online learning interfaces I have learned and then been asked to discard over the years. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

“Each new platform over-promises what it will deliever.” Apparently the eWorld (other than Apple) has not heard of the leadership proverb: under-promise, over-deliever.

“Progress is incremental and industry-wide, regardless of platform.” Changes in platforms are often heralded as technological leaps forward. But most innovations are already being implemented in discarded systems. Sometimes the slowness is due to quality control (e.g. Apple again). Thus, long term promises of innovation tend to quickly be matched by other platforms. Changing platforms to spur innovation doesn’t foster progress beyond where the industry is headed, according to my experience.

“I suspect new platforms are initially less expensive” (probably purposefully to gain market share). But the trade off by requiring migration and retraining, wipes out savings and disengages the workforce.

Finally and most importantly, “the move toward less professorial interaction and more computer (AI) scoring undercuts adaption and innovation.” Don’t believe me? Read College of London professor Thomas Rid’s book: “Rise of the Machines: A Cyber History.” Rid concludes from cyber-history that computers have great difficulty automating jobs that require a high degree of “adaption and innovation.” Without “adaption,” instructors cannot adapt the homework and readings to a particular student’s context. And without “innovation” the instructor cannot synthesize ideas together with the student to form a multifaceted strategy. Innovation and adaption are what academics describe as the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. These higher levels basically describe the depth of thinking and practice of higher intelligence and higher education. May my school always embrace them.