Online education brings about change with AI

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/13 19:18:41

Jason Zhou, the co-founder and CEO of Yixue Squirrel AI Learning hopes to offer equal access to quality education for children Photo: Courtesy of Yixue Squirrel AI Learning

In an age when good educational resources are limited, students are desperate to enter good schools so that they can have good teachers and a better future. With the development of AI technology, educational resources are becoming accessible to everyone with an internet connection.

The recent Slush Shanghai 2018, which was held on September 7 is where companies' founders and investors met up to exchange ideas over how technology brings about change. One highlight of the event was the participation of the four-year-old AI adaptive learning education company, Yixue Squirrel AI Learning, which adopted AI technology into their online educational platform that helps alleviate students' pressure in the classroom while enabling them to learn more efficiently from some of the best teachers nationwide.

The co-founder and CEO of Yixue Squirrel AI Learning, Jason Zhou said that they expect every child to have an AI super teacher beside them. According to Zhou, the AI super teacher is designed to know each student, set up personalized study plans for each one of them, and teach them the best things and the most suitable knowledge points to learn.

"It would be like having ten professional teachers to teach one student, which is unrealistic in the traditional education model because of the limited educational resources. Yet through AI technology, we can do that," Zhou said.

Yixue Squirrel AI Learning's focus is still on assisting students to get better grades on exams which is what matters under the current Chinese educational system. With over 300 retired senior teachers to help them with the development of educational content, Zhou regards his platform as a good extension of what is taught in schools.

The AI system simulates a Special-Grade teacher, which is the highest title a K-12 teacher can achieve in China's education system, providing one-on-one customized teaching plans for every child boosting the efficiency of traditional lesson plans by five to ten times the current standard. When a child excels in some subjects, but struggles with others, the platform will recognize the need for further instruction and suggest plans to strengthen learning skills to help the student excel in all areas of education.

At Yixue Squirrel AI Learning, data and feedback are continuously available to teachers to use in making appropriate instructional decisions, thus enabling formative assessment, another practice with a strong research basis. Further, Squirrel AI implemented a differentiated instruction model in which students who progress at different rates receive different support. Students who progresses quickly through the basic levels of a topic are given more challenging problems to accelerate their preparation for advanced topics. A student who experiences difficulties with a topic first gets a computer-based tutorial, recommendations in a review of prerequisites, and help from the teacher.

"From thousands of years ago till now, Chinese education is more or less the same and that is teacher-oriented, which makes teachers a rare resource in China," Zhou said, noting that in order to change the situation, they are making their platform more student-oriented. Through AI technology, Yixue Squirrel AI Learning offers every child with internet connection to have professional teachers instruct them step by step, with prerecorded videos online," Zhou said. Zhou believes that teachers are holding too much responsibility on their shoulders for children's education by not only teaching them skills, but also cultivating them to be good people. Now, with AI technology, the machines know more than teachers about the learning process and condition of each student, thanks to the big data. What teachers need to do is to build up students morality. Currently, Yixue Squirrel AI Learning is cooperating respectively with Stanford Research Institute and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to establish artificial intelligence research institutes for adaptive learning. "We are confident that we will be in the leading position in terms of AI adaptive learning technology in the educational sector not just in China, but also in the world," Zhou said. "Of course, only technology is not enough, we are dedicated to expanding our market share and making it the largest in AI education in China in the next five years. At the same time, we are also planning to expand to US, Europe, South Africa, India, etc."

With the investment of over 200 million yuan ($6.8 million) in the R&D, their annual revenue is expected to be over a billion this year. Meanwhile, Zhou and his team are working on exporting their AI technology to other countries to help them with the development of their online education for learning languages and other subjects.

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