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Why do we (still) need human teachers for online classes?

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Why are robot teachers not a good idea yet for remote learning?

The ideal situation for online classes is a tech savvy teacher using the robots optimally and in a customised way.

Learning, for all levels, moved online during the pandemic. Technology became an indispensible part of education. Now with life returning to normal, or close to it, schools are reopening. But heavy tech dependence is here to stay. And so are human teachers. Teachers became as important as doctors and techies during the pandemic. Is this a contradiction or does it signal a greater alignment with technology?  

How are robot teachers expected to function?  
Robotic teachers are not new. We have been used to a certain degree of automation for several years now. All smartphone and computer users know how help menu and chatbots function. These are all robotic and algorithm-driven.  

Robot teachers were to work in variations of this. Many online learning platforms and learning apps use menu driven, robot-assisted modules. Student queries are replied by a robot choosing the correct answer from programmed responses. In some cases, such as Siri, Google Home or Alexa, the robot has a voice and almost a character. In many learning apps, especially ones for school students, there is a complex gamified structure, involving animated characters, who are actually all robots, i.e., they are coded products.  

Why were human teachers needed during the pandemic for online classes?  

When the nationwide lockdown was declared, schools were still expected to educate children remotely. And that’s when human teachers gained importance because of reasons like these:  

  • Human teachers can choose which tech to use, a robot is pre-programmed. Almost no school depends on only one app. Only a human can manage the whole toolkit efficiently, and exercise choice wisely. 
  • Students need individual attention. Robots are human creations limited to the menu we set, including the most intuitive ones with in-depth AI and ML capabilities. The ideal situation is a tech savvy teacher using the robots optimally and in a customised way. 
  • Humans still think, react and manage situations faster than a machine. Our brain works so fast while creating these same machines, that it is simply not possible for any marvel of programming to catch up. A robot can solve a Math problem or a Geography question. But a human will sense confusion, nervousness, comprehension at literally lightning speed and work out solutions at the same speed  

Human driven robotic teaching is going to expand, but robots entirely replacing humans for online learning is not going to happen in near future.  

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