Prathik Gadde’s experience in business was that he didn’t have any. A graduate of Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing – and studying under Professor Karl F. MacDorman – Prathik headed back to India to start a robotics lab and a user experience design lab. As it turns out, India doesn’t have the dwindling population issues that a country like Japan does, and the populace happens to be less embracing of human-like machines than the robot-happy Japanese. So… he got more committed to design and development company in India. With 26 employees and a lot more on his plate, he returned to get his PhD from Indiana University, and he continues to expand his sights on new applications of technology to better our experience of the world. Now he is working with Dr. Davide Bolchini in conceptualizing accessible web navigation strategies for Blind and Visually Impaired individuals.

We were able to catch up for an hour or so about Prathik’s new startup plans in the domain of e-learning – and some of the exciting ways that AI and e-learning might unite to create a better and more effective learning experience.

One point which Prathik made clear early on was his broad conception of the idea of artificial intelligence. “For me, artificial intelligence is anything that is supported by a computer.” Thus, the applications of AI in e-learning needn’t involve androids who can hold full-blown conversations with students, or futuristic algorithms that can accurately predict a student’s test grades (though both of these technology may one day be possible).

Rather, an AI might determine that given all the various learning media (from video to audio to text, etc…), the student tends to perform best on tests when he / she studies primarily with video as the learning media of choice. A student might not pick this fact up intuitively, but an AI would be able to detect the pattern and bring it to the student’s attention.

Similarly, unlike a traditional book, an AI-guided e-learning software could help a student catch up to exactly the point in his studies where he had left off – with reminders of recently learned material, and prompts towards his next potential steps in mastering that chapter or learning module.

In addition, AI can use the help of simple graphics to make the learning process more engaging than the traditional lecture-and-notes method. For example, instead of simply taking notes on a given chapter of a book, a student may use a computer simulation to pick up words, terms, or concepts and put them into their proper place or order. Even if the “picking up” involves clicking and dragging with a computer mouse, the image on the screen can still be that of a human hand grabbing and moving an object. This – for Prathik – implies a much deeper level of engagement and immersion with the material than the normal method of simply reading and note-taking.

Prathik acknowledges that a great number of Startups are presently working away at a kind of similar issue, but from many different angles. The hope is that education can be broken free from the traditional mold and model, and leveraged in new ways that are not only more enjoyable and tailored to the student – but that are also more effective, and less location-dependent.


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