Personalization: The Next Big Thing in Education: IBM

20th February 2014
Personalization: The Next Big Thing in Education: IBM

Bangalore, February 20 2014.
From Anand Parthasarathy
It is time to proclaim the end of the era of one-size-fits-all education and the beginning of personalized experiential learning. Five years from now, IBM predicted recently, classrooms will learn about each student and personalize course work according to each child's needs and abilities. Teachers will tap cloud based resources to make their instruction go much further.( see the video on our home page  Tech Video spot for a few days)
En route to Delhi where she will help set the agenda for IBM’s Digital Learning Workshop (February 27-28), Sara Basson, Programme Director - Education Transformation, Career Pathways at the IBM TJ Watson Research Lab, York Town Heights,New York, shared some insights with IndiaTechOnline on how IBM researchers are contributing generally in the area of education transformation-- and specifically harnessing the massive resource that is IBM's cognitive computer --  Watson.
For decades, we have tried to make humans talk -- or rather create programmes - the way a computer thinks and have tried to build systems where the test of reliability is that they give the same answer to the same question, every time, says Dr Basson.
" But what if we want the computer to understand language the way humans use it? And what if we don't want the same answer every time... we want a different answer depending on our context as the questioner, or new information that's available... or from learning based on the last set of answersand actions? THAT's the cognitive computing paradigm!"
The cognitive skills of 'Watson' are being deployed in multiple ways -- not least to fuel the new era of personalized education -- because Watson, doesn't just learn every time some one works with it; it also teaches. "You don't programme Watson, you work with Watson" Dr Basson reminded. (YouTube Video: What will you do with Watson?)
No stranger to India, she completed an assignment at IBM Research-India, in her previous role, working on usability and business development for what came to be known as the "Spoken Web" a voice-based internet service which could boost the number of internet surfers by hundreds of millions.
Dr Basson is currently working on on improving Career Pathways: "How can we use analytics across the wealth of data available, to do a better job of matching learners with appropriate roles, anticipating areas of difficulty, and recommending suitable interventions?"
"India will need 800 new universities by 2020,in addition to the 350 now, if we continue down traditional paths to education. A radical shift is needed -- and the digital revolution can help shorten the road. " she says.
India is IBM’s main research hub for the advancement of education technology, with a special focus on the concept of personalized education. And next week's workshop will be an opportunity for researchers to understand the special needs of the Indian educational system -- and hopefully come up with the next big idea to fuel tomorrow's digitally driven learning ecosystem.