The chances are pretty high that you’ve heard all the stories circulating about AI these days. From ChatGPT, which can answer almost any question to Craiyon, a text-to-image creator, and everything in between. You may have even already used or encountered AI tools and AI-generated content in your classroom.
But what are the possibilities — and cautions — we should consider as educators as AI cements itself as a facet of daily life? While the breadth and depth of this topic is too large to cover in just one article, let’s take a look at some key considerations for online teachers, such as:
- The benefits and possibilities of using AI in a virtual classroom
- How to speed up tasks and create custom class materials using AI
- Plagiarism, grading, and the ethical use of AI in educational settings
What is AI?
AI, or Artificial Intelligence is, in the most simplistic terms, a machine that can perform tasks simulating human intelligence and responses. As scary as that might sound to some, AI has actually been around since the 1950s, and British computer pioneer Alan Mathison Turing is credited with founding the scientific field of Artificial Intelligence.
Today, you carry AI with you everywhere you go if you have a smartphone. If you use Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, you’re talking to AI every time you ask a question. AI advertising is even starting to replace the cookies you see when visiting web pages with AI.
But what does all of this have to do with teaching?
In this article, we’re going to look at the benefits of using AI in your online classroom, the biggest questions surrounding AI and education, and how you can use AI to help market your online teaching business.
Benefits of AI in the online classroom
Did you know that if you teach on Outschool, you’re already using Zoom’s AI-powered features in your classroom? That’s right! You’re already using AI to enhance your online teaching when you use tools such as virtual backgrounds, noise suppression, and other features that are already integrated into Zoom’s programming. If you aren’t using any of these features, be sure to check out our educator’s guide to Zoom.
With advances in technology, educators have even more resources to use in their virtual classrooms. At Outschool, we want to empower educators and learners to have the most impactful experience possible.
Let’s look at a couple of ways that AI can make running your teaching business easier and more efficient. We’ll dive into:
- How to use AI to create custom teaching materials
- AI’s role in combatting plagiarism in education
- How to use AI to automate teaching tasks like grading and responding to messages
Create custom classroom materials with AI
According to Ditch That Textbook, new tools are being developed all the time to help educators in the classroom. AI tools such as Curipod, help you build interactive lessons to share virtually. Other AI tools may help you build interactive slides, exit tickets, and other creative tools to keep your class discussion engaging.
Need help with lesson planning for an upcoming course? Copilot “generates quality, structured lesson plans for any subject, lesson, or concept.”
Maybe you’re offering a science or history class with a lot of material from multiple sources and you know it’s going to take you a while to put all your slides together. Have no fear because AI such as SlidesAI.io will take the information you want to use and compile it into a series of slides for you.
As you may know, you can use Canva to create profile videos, Pins, or Instagram posts to market your classes and develop a brand identity. However, did you know that Canva has integrated AI into its platform? Now you can use the integrated AI to generate images from text and edit photos. If you’re looking for a more interactive experience in the online classroom you can enhance slides with the built-in AI slide generator, and even use a writer and text generator.
Regardless of how you use AI, it’s everywhere now. Experiment with what’s available and what may help you to free up the time you would normally use to create materials. Doing so may allow you to spend more time coming up with new ideas or things to do during class meetings.
For additional insights on using AI in the classroom, check out these articles:
- Don’t Ban ChatGPT in Schools. Teach with It
- AI in the Classroom: Benefits, Challenges, and Best Practices
- AI in the Classroom: Pros, Cons, and the Role of EdTech
Combat plagiarism in the age of AI
With the rise of AI to help learners “write” their papers, there is also an increase in the tools created to combat plagiarism, and created specifically to detect AI writing. Gone are the days of learners copying and pasting source text information into a paper and thinking no one will notice!
If you offer classes on Outschool that require writing or research, be sure to look into the following AI checkers:
Keep in mind that these aren’t the only tools available, and as AI gets more intelligent, more AI-detecting tools will likely be developed to eliminate cheating.
Automate routine business management tasks
Now that you have AI working to create your class materials, it’s time to start looking at ways AI can help you minimize wasted time doing menial tasks. We’ve pulled together a couple of examples below to show you how AI can maximize your efficiency and productivity as an educator entrepreneur while minimizing the tedious busy work.
Check out some of these ways you can automate your everyday tasks:
Let AI help with grading and feedback
Part of having a successful online teaching business is good customer service, which includes making sure that your learners are getting the appropriate feedback when applicable. AI such as FeedbackFruits helps you create feedback based on several selected criteria.
If you spend hours grading, try using an AI such as AI Grader for tests and essays or EssayGrader for rubric-based papers. This is great for both teachers and parents because it frees up teachers from menials tasks, gets work returned to students faster, and allows teachers to identify the most important areas for growth so they can offer their expert, personalized feedback
Keep in mind that families still want to know that their learners are getting personalized feedback. You, as an educator, still have the opportunity and responsibility to review any graded work and add any additional feedback. So, how do you balance using AI with customized grading and feedback?
- When using AI, create your own rubrics and answer keys in order to give objective responses faster.
- Add your own personal touch by including positive feedback about any areas where a learner may have performed exceptionally well or expand on constructive feedback with personalized insights into the learner’s areas for growth.
It’s all about balance, and utilizing AI tools to take care of initial evaluations using a rubric lets you focus on developing meaningful, actionable feedback for your learners.
Design personalized worksheets with AI
One of Outschool’s ACE pillars is facilitating learner agency by encouraging learner participation and goal setting. With AI worksheet generators, such as Brancher.ai and Worksheet Genie*, you can create multiple worksheets to cover units or lessons or even meet learners where they are if you have multiple comprehension levels in your classroom. (*As of June 2023, you will need to sign up for the waitlist to use Worksheet Genie, but based on the information provided on helping educators create AI-generated worksheets, it’s worth getting on the list.)
For example, if you are teaching a reading comprehension class and want to assign homework you might make a worksheet with different passages to read or questions to answer. If you know half of your learners are struggling to understand the main idea you can create one worksheet focused on questions and answers to fit that need. Then, if the other half of the class is struggling with answering direct questions or vocabulary you can adjust their questions to help with that area of learning.
While this may have taken a lot of time in the past, using AI worksheet generators speeds up this process.
Keep in mind that, while hands-on learning is always encouraged, if you allow learners to access the worksheet website or create their worksheets, you will need to include that in your class listing to ensure that you are COPPA compliant.
Use Google Extensions for daily tasks
If you want to increase your productivity as an online educator, Google may have a solution. Google extensions allow you to customize your browser (Chrome, Safari, Google Explorer, etc.) experience. AI extension tools such as Grammarly or Wordtune can help with grammar, sentence structure, and creating clean messages for families. If you’re looking to turn a YouTube video into a class lesson, EdPuzzle’s AI Chrome extension can grab any video with the click of a button.
Be sure to check out Google’s extensive extensions for educational purposes to find even more AI tools to make your online teaching easier.
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Creating an environment that is welcoming to all learners is just as important as the material you’re teaching. With this in mind, think of AI as another resource or tool that allows you to reach more students, regardless of their learning style.
One way to do this is to create self-paced Flex courses with closed captioning for learners who benefit from reading instructions, instead of only listening to audio. Amara, Web Captioner, and even YouTube have tools for creating captions you can add to your videos.
With each of these AI tools, you can create a more personalized learning experience for your classes. And who doesn’t love that?
Disadvantages of AI in your online classroom
Now that we’ve covered the advantages of using AI in your online classroom, let’s discuss some of the cons of AI. The biggest concern for most educators is thinking that learners may use AI to plagiarize, cheat, or otherwise avoid completing tasks themselves.
AI may hinder problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
Have you ever been in a class or seen a YouTube video where a child asks Alexa or Google for the answer to a homework question? This is pretty common in homes with voice-controlled devices. With AI machines at their fingertips, students often feel like they have access to all the information they need.
While this is great when used as a learning tool because AI can process data quickly, the need for learners to search for information themselves is decreasing. Voice-controlled devices like Alexa can take the work out of researching. Asking ChatGPT or Alexa a question removes the opportunity to try something new, make mistakes, and learn how to vet information before trusting it as fact.
Think about it. How many of you had to use an encyclopedia or go to the library to look up information when you were a kid? With the internet, leaving the house to scour the Dewey Decimal System became a thing of the past. For younger adults, you may recall using online encyclopedias and databases of peer-reviewed articles to complete research projects. Even though the information was digital, you still had to make decisions and seek out information during the research process.
AI has the potential to change this entirely. AI is poised to fully transform how we find, process, and verify information—and we don’t have all the answers as to how we’ll handle this as a society yet.
Learners can type in a question or give a prompt in tools such as Chat GPT and receive a response created by a machine and not from their thoughts or research. Young minds need challenges and problems to solve to grow and thrive, so as a teacher, you may strive to include hands-on activities or interactive elements in your classes.
Just “asking AI” can lessen the meaningful work that leads to profound learning. As an educator, you may need to intentionally create scenarios where learners are challenged to problem solve and develop critical thinking skills without using AI as the only answer.
AI’s effect on social and behavioral development
As an educator, it is important to implement learning opportunities in the online classroom where learners can be creative, use their imagination, and socialize with one another. Creating a community and connection is one way you can help combat the potentially isolating aspects of AI.
Remember that the human element is the most important piece of the puzzle. While the growth of AI tools may make it tempting to create asynchronous classes that involve no interaction, Outschool is known and applauded for its educator/learner relationships. An AI tool cannot give the same care and attention to a learner as you can!
How to use AI to grow your online teaching business
Earlier, we looked at a couple of AI tools and how they make tasks in the online classroom easier. Now, let’s look at how AI can help automate your business operations so that you have more time to focus on teaching.
Create better videos
Part of marketing your classes on Outschool is having eye-catching videos to draw potential families into learning more about you or your classes. To do this, you can create a video on your profile page and in each class listing to help promote your courses. But if you’re not feeling too tech-savvy or want to level up your videos, there are a couple of AI tools that can help.
If you’re already using Canva to make worksheets or design photos for class listings, you can take this one step further with their video editor, which includes some help from AI (but you still need to upload your own video clips and assemble them within the editor). If you’re looking for a way to take a script and turn it into a video without appearing on-screen yourself, AI tools such as FlexClip and Pictory.ai have templates ready to go.
As an educator entrepreneur with an online business, you do more than teach. Sometimes you’re working on moving things around to meet learner schedules, planning lessons, or creating new class listings. Thankfully, AI is starting to take away some of the menial tasks so that you can focus your attention elsewhere.
For example, Mem takes notes that connect with your email and calendar so that you can stay organized with new ideas and lesson plans or keep track of upcoming tasks.
Fliki.ai is technically for repurposing old blog posts, but why not use it to transform old live lesson plans into flex courses? With access to video, narrators in multiple languages and dialects, and on-screen captioning, you can create videos that read stories, teach new concepts, or work as tutorials.
If you’re teaching a topic that requires research, AI tools such as genei search the web for relevant content based on the keywords entered. SciSpace Copilot also acts as a research assistant, but it helps you break down and understand scientific articles, which can help you explain advanced concepts to younger learners.
Of course, summary AI tools such as QuillBot can take longer pieces of information and narrow it down so that you can create lessons for one-time classes or make them topic specific.
And these are just the tip of the AI iceberg. If you regularly need to complete a task that takes longer than you would like, look online to see what AI is out there to help you get it done quicker. With new tools developed daily, you’re bound to find something, or you may be the key to creating the next big AI tool.
Marketing using AI
If you market your classes online, knowing which AI tools to use to maximize your impact can be a huge advantage.
We already know that educators are finding success with social media marketing, but using AI allows you to gain the upper hand by automating the process.
Create social media content using Buffer’s AI Assistant to take one form of content, such as your class listing video, and repurpose the content across multiple platforms. You can even schedule multiple posts at once. If you struggle to create clever captions or hashtags, Ocoya can help you create eye-catching content to help get your posts noticed.
As you start using AI, see how it frees up valuable time. You may discover more time to add additional classes to your schedule and expand your online teaching business!
Ready to get started?
Check out Outschool’s roundtable discussion with educators from June 2023 to hear community perspectives on how AI tools may impact online teaching.
Looking for more information on getting started and excelling with AI in the online classroom? Be sure to check out these articles about advances in AI learning and the future of teaching:
- Education and Tech Heavy-Hitters Launch AI Learning Initiative
- Building AI Literacy: What One District Has Learned
- It’s Not Just ChatGPT, Other AI Technologies Are Heading to Schools
- What is ChatGPT4