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Chatbots help in enhancing learning

4 May 2023

Experts in Oman believe that ChatGPT will transform education – not undermine it, as feared – if it is used with discretion and parental supervision.

ABC: Hello, what information do you need?

Student: Can you tell me something about the Taj?

ABC: Taj Hotels is a chain of luxury hotels and a subsidiary of the Indian Hotels Company Limited, headquartered in Mumbai, India.

Student: No, I mean the Taj Mahal.

ABC: Taj Mahal Teas are tasted, graded and perfectly blended at the Brooke bond Tea Excellence Centre.

Student: No, I need to know something about the Taj Mahal in Agra, for my school essay.

ABC: The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the right bank of the river Yamuna in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was commissioned in 1631 by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan.

Technology is becoming a more significant part of how children will learn and develop as education progresses. But basic intelligence and discernment is a prerequisite for students to make the most of it and enhance their own knowledge.

Currently, in the field of education, chatbots are one technology that is quickly gaining popularity. And ChatGPT is one of the newest and most inventive chatbots available for students to gain instant assistance to gain knowledge as well as complete their assignments.

ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can be utilised in schools and colleges to enhance the learning experience for students. It has the ability to analyse and understand human language, and generate responses that are virtually indistinguishable from those of a human.

This makes chatbots an ideal tool for facilitating communication and learning in an educational setting. However, some people also worry that reliance on technology could lead to a drop in social interaction or a decrease in their critical thinking abilities.

Tariq al Barwani, IT expert, is of the view that ChatGPT is not the end of learning but an aid to how kids will learn. “In the past, students could find assistance via Google, but today ChatGPT is an improved and even smarter option to turn to.”

In order to assess student aptitude and minimise plagiarism, Barwani believes that professors should conduct more in-class tests and frequent quizzes. “Although it is true that the AI generated content is currently difficult to spot and the tools that are currently available to detect plagiarism can be expensive, I’m confident that in future there will be affordable ways to do so.”

He further added, “ChatGPT can also be used as an online tutor, providing students with instant feedback and guidance on their coursework. This can be particularly helpful for students who are struggling with a particular subject, and those who need additional support outside of the classroom.”

Dr Reshmy Krishnan, Head of Research and Associate Professor in Muscat College, said that with the help of ChatGPT, students can learn new languages, programming, and writing within no time.

“Students who are learning a new language can converse with a chatbot in that language to hone their speaking, writing, reading, and listening abilities. It can also provide its services to youngsters with special needs who need individualised and flexible learning opportunities. However, it does not replace human interaction and direct guidance in education. Students need emotional support, motivation, and critical thinking, which can be provided only through direct learning from teachers.”

Critical thinking is an essential component of education that must be developed during lesson delivery. “Teachers should ask open-ended questions which require students to think critically and creatively. Group projects are an advisable method to promote critical thinking and teamwork. While providing feedback, students can be asked to explain the reasoning behind their thought process. Technology such as educational software and interactive simulations can enhance students’ critical thinking skills,’ Dr Krishnan added.

Boon or bane

Drawing attention to some drawbacks of using ChatGPT, Barwani said, “AI occasionally produces inaccurate information and one should not wholly rely on it for factual information.”

Haitham al Hajri, a cyber-security expert, on the other hand, pointed out, “If chatbots are used very frequently, people may become overly dependent on them, which will hinder their ability to think creatively and innovate. This will make the next generation entirely hooked onto  devices.”

Dr Reshmy, however, believes that ChatGPT has high potential in Oman. Since this tool understands and responds to queries in any language, communication and information exchange are more accessible and efficient for ordinary people, especially those from rural areas.

“Chatbots can be extensively used in sectors like education, healthcare, and customer service. Also, it will become extremely difficult for people to find work in Oman because of numerous job losses as a result of companies using chatbots to handle certain tasks.”

Parental supervision

Parents can play a vital role in helping children use technology to enhance their development without becoming overly reliant on ChatGPT.

According to Dr Reshmy, “Parents should set clear boundaries around technology use, such as limiting screen time, avoiding using mobile phones during meals, prioritising family time, and setting up a specified space for study. By giving little tasks and responsibilities at home, parents can encourage their children’s ability to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions.”

ChatGPT has the ability to completely change the way we approach education, if students are also given individualised, efficient, and interesting learning opportunities so that they do not depend totally on technology for gaining knowledge.

About using such digital aides to enhance the student’s knowledge and learning profile, Dr Reshmy said, “ChatGPT is an AI tool that generates responses as per the input regardless of the IQ level of the user. The accuracy of the response depends on the data it has been trained on. Hence if the input provided to ChatGPT is accurate and informative, the responses generated by ChatGPT can certainly benefit kids with lower IQ by providing them with useful information and insights. The responsibility of ensuring the accuracy of the input rests with the person providing it, rather than with ChatGPT itself.

“ChatGPT can certainly help save time for kids and parents in completing homework or assignments for younger children. As an AI language model, ChatGPT can provide quick and accurate responses to questions related to a wide range of topics, in all subjects including examples. However, while ChatGPT can be a useful tool for gaining quick information and understanding, students should still be encouraged to think critically and develop their own ideas and solutions to problems.”

(Contributed by Deeba Parween)

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