Is the robot revolution coming? Are we witnessing the dawn of a day when robots teach our children, fold our laundry, drive our cars and do our jobs? Perhaps that’s just the plot of a good movie, but questions like these become more and more relevant each day as we see the leaps and bounds that modern technology is taking.
Teaching, however, is a totally different story. Although online learning can save tons of time, the key aspect of empathy and relating to students in order to build an educational relationship is basically impossible for any machine to achieve. Online learning and app technology still need human function behind them to deliver the most effective results for businesses and learners alike. Plus, employees will be talking to each other in English, not conversing with apps and robots. You wouldn’t get a painter to teach you piano, so why substitute?
Teaching can be reliant on technology, whether in the form of apps, smart whiteboards, online assignment submissions or web-based tests. All of these tools have an incredible value, helping courses to be structured, recorded and re-used as well as opening up internet learning to classrooms across the globe. Online courses arguably benefit the most from these modern developments as the classroom has ‘gone virtual’. But, it is important to keep in mind the downfalls of taking learning tech too far. Removing human interaction doesn’t help to develop learners and doesn’t give them individual, critical feedback. Apps can only infer so much from a student’s input and, even with advances in Artificial Intelligence, we are several strides away from being able to replicate the shared bond and understanding of a subject matter that is achieved with human feedback.
Flexibility, self-discipline and a wide range of choices are the factors that attract many learners to online classrooms, but these choices also come with the knowledge that another real human will be offering guidance along the educational path. An app can have everything you need programming into it and is available at the touch of a button, but education is about presenting and structuring this information in the best way for a learner. Apps can make great supplements to a course, offering easy-to-access information and great opportunities, but there’s nothing like being able to contact a real teacher and ask that complicated question about pronunciation or idiom.
So maybe the robots aren’t an immediate threat to life as we know it. Language apps and online classrooms have increased access to education and allowed for some great leaps in combining ‘real-life’ teaching with increased freedom and flexibility. But, for now, no app can cast a shadow on the rich benefits of having a human teacher behind your educational experience.