The ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse human behaviour across different age groups must be utilised to identify the needs of a person in his or her learning process.
For decades, we have practised a conventional learning process that relies much on a standardised education system that mostly grades learners on the basis of age.
Such a measure had been adopted on the grounds that the cognitive development of a normal person could be identified and differentiated based on chronological age, especially during their early years.
However, even within the same age group, each person has different levels of cognitive development and learning capacity, and thus may have different needs in learning.
Today, artificial intelligence offers such an opportunity, which is known as “adaptive learning”.
Adaptive learning provides more than just tailored learning resources to learners. It uses algorithm to process the interaction between the learner, the educator and the computer.
This tailored-learning process requires the learner to be collaborative rather than a passive information receiver. At the same time, it allows the educator to monitor the progress of the learner through continuous formative assessment since every interaction is tracked in real-time.
An effective adaptive learning system retains the key component of the learning process, namely the presence of the educator. A real teacher during the class hour is indeed relevant, and in fact, integral to the learning process. A teacher with sufficient knowledge and experience can properly guide the student towards a better understanding and prevent him from making mistakes.
Long before the conventional education system and adaptive learning technology, a personalised learning system has been a practice in traditional Islamic pedagogy. In general, a personalised learning system assumes each learner to be unique and therefore has different needs.
The teacher will always be a source of reference, and provides the learners with the knowledge they need. In a traditional setting, the learners should master a certain level of knowledge in order to move forward in their curriculum.
Islamic pedagogy also emphasises knowledge to be put to practice. For example, in learning the Quran, the learner is said to have truly attained knowledge when he puts his learning into practice. Normally, this begins by teaching others when the learners engage in a study circle or collaborative learning with their peers.
Study circles enhance learners’ understanding through discussion and exchange of knowledge as it creates an active engagement between the learners and the teacher. Such an active learning atmosphere in the Islamic education tradition can also be found in the current adaptive learning environment but with the additional help of technology which facilitates teachers in monitoring development and provides the student with tailored materials that suit their needs.
The question should not be whether adaptive learning is better than traditional and conventional education systems. For decades, traditional and conventional learning systems have been providing people with necessary education and skills. It is the success of these systems which has given us the advancements that we have in today’s world.
And now, as technology advances in the age of Industrial Revolution 4.0, adaptive learning tools are widely available and can be utilised as a complementary or supportive component of our current education system to help teachers in their teaching and students in their learning so that it will be more interactive, interesting and efficient.
Besides the support of the adaptive learning system, our country also needs the people themselves to be adaptive learners. They should be taught and trained to be more adaptive to changes in their surroundings that encompass all aspects of their lives.
Adaptive learners equipped with survival skills and a flexible mindset could lead others, especially when they are in leadership positions.
According to the Centre for Asia Leadership, every person, especially a leader, should be capable of changing his mindset to take the right ‘adaptive action’ in line with the demands of Industry 4.0. Hence, we need to be adaptable and to keep pace since our time is one of accelerated change.
The Quran (al-Ra’d 13:11) tells us that God will not change the predicament of certain people unless they take matters into their own hands and change it themselves. Therefore, we should keep learning, be adaptable, and improve ourselves in order to gain and take advantage of the opportunities available to us.
Published in: The New Straits Times, 02 May 2019