The Evolving Business of A.I. in Education

Author: Shivali Chikkaswamy, Graphics: Walton Bullard

The BRB Bottomline: Despite classroom controversy over the use of A.I. chatbots in teaching, educational developers are quickly involving themselves in the growing movement towards artificial intelligence and capitalizing on their partnerships with OpenAI. However, their misguided focus on monetization and profit may ultimately undermine the potential benefits of AI in academics and kill the magic ChatGPT once had in revolutionizing the world of education.

Nothing strikes dread in a student’s heart quite like the realization that they have a five-page essay due at midnight on a book they haven’t started, or a looming deadline on an unfinished math project. Unfortunately, the plague of busywork and deadline anxiety shrouds most students’ high school and college experiences. In a breath of fresh air, burnt out and stress-ridden students finally experienced relief following OpenAI’s surprise launch of ChatGPT in November 2022.

The Model

By now, you have probably heard of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot capable of writing that five-page essay or finishing that math project, allowing you to complete assignments more effortlessly than ever. The chatbot that practically gained viral status overnight crossed over one million users within a week of its launch and the 100 million users milestone in January 2023. To put it simply, the free AI model uses large amounts of data to understand and generate language and text and can be used to summarize information, write articles, and answer questions efficiently. More recently, OpenAI has moved to cash in on its fame by implementing ChatGPT Plus, a premium version of ChatGPT. The new service, costing $20 a month, offers priority access during peak times, faster response times, and access to exclusive features. Despite controversy, ChatGPT Plus may be the first of many plans to monetize AI. OpenAI recently hinted at exploring business plans and offering ChatGPT-specific APIs in a blog post, resulting in the company’s expected revenue to hit $200 million by the end of 2023. 

“The Greatest Cheating Tool Invented”

Over the short period of time that ChatGPT has existed, it has already racked up quite the academic record, passing the A.P. English exam, four law exams at the University of Minnesota, the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, and scoring 1020 on the SAT. The responses are so human-like that the chatbot was coined to be “the greatest cheating tool ever invented” by a professor at Webster State University. 

Unsurprisingly, several educators support the ban of chatbots in schools due to concerns about plagiarism and cheating. The ever-evolving platform makes it difficult for teachers to differentiate original work from plagiarized work. Panicking professors across the United States have already implemented policies that explicitly ban the use of A.I. technology in classrooms, while companies are also creating technology-aided plagiarism detectors

Tool for Enrichment

Despite the fact that some teachers have banned the use of chatbots entirely, others have viewed A.I. generative technologies as a tool for enrichment and efficiency. Just as students utilize a calculator to perform time-consuming problems in math, ChatGPT and other A.I. programs can be used as tools to complete a greater variety of tedious work, such as debugging code and allowing students to prioritize higher-level tasks. Although opinions regarding the use of ChatGPT in classrooms vary, one thing can be agreed upon: A.I. technologies provide an advantage to students academically.

Democratizing Education

As every student’s favorite flashcard maker, Quizlet was the first educational technology company to hop on the language model A.I. bandwagon. On March 1st, 2023, Quizlet introduced  Q-Chat, a fully adaptive A.I. tutor that can deepen students’ understanding and alter specific questions to match their needs. Quizlet’s collaboration with OpenAI stems from its desire to provide students with one-on-one expert and tailored coaching. Two weeks later, Khan Academy, another well-known educational resource, also launched its version of an A.I. tutor, Khanmigo, powered by OpenAI’s latest model GPT-4. Both companies are working in conjunction with OpenAI to personalize the learning experience for their users, just as a tutor would for their student. The implications of these programs in education technology are tremendous, as academic resources that used to be reserved for the wealthy are now available to a broader range of students. 

The Future of the Business Education Industry

Just as OpenAI monetized its A.I. services, educational developers are following in their footsteps. Programs like Q-Chat are still in their beta phases and therefore free to the public; however, Quizlet is projected to add Q-Chat to their premium subscription plan, costing $7.99 a month. Khan Academy has also mentioned a possible introduction of future service charge fees after stating that Khanmigo cannot exist without financial support from users. There is an evident trend of developers monetizing the products they have created through their partnerships with OpenAI and tapping in on their large user bases as a source of profit — even when that user base consists heavily of students. 

Impact on Low-Income Students

The introduction of fees by these educational companies backtrack on their original intentions to provide every student with the opportunity to reach their full potential. If companies like Quizlet and Khan Academy continue to offer these academic services to only those who can afford them, introducing A.I. technology in education would be detrimental to lower-income students. Lower-income students en masse already garner lower educational outcomes, partly due to their lack of access to advanced technology and other educational resources. Any additional exclusive resource would further exacerbate the achievement gap witnessed between non-wealthy and wealthier students. Seeing how educational systems have already adapted to the introduction of ChatGPT has shed light on the substantial effects A.I. technology will have in academia. As evidenced by OpenAI’s latest milestone of GPT-4, A.I. chatbots will continue to grow in accuracy and reach. Since we cannot prevent AI-powered technology from entering the sphere of higher education, developers must ensure that these knowledgeable and valuable resources are provided at an equitable rate. Depending on how well chatbots are implemented into the classroom, they can have the potential to either level out the educational playing field or introduce new financial barriers that further widen the gap between low and high-income students.

Take-Home Points

  • OpenAI’s Chat GPT is being used by students worldwide to finesse assignments and achieve better academic results.
  • Teachers are split on the extent to which artificial intelligence should play a role in revolutionizing academia.
  • Education technology is evolving to integrate language models into autoregressive and personalized coaches for students.
  • Educational developers are looking to monetize their collaborations with OpenAI, leaving many students unable to afford the technology offered.
  • It is crucial to strike a balance between leveraging the potential of AI in education and ensuring that it remains beneficial to all learners, rather than being driven by profit motives.

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