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Generative AI, which appears to be initially loved by students and loathed by educators, is coming to education as its embedded in courseware as well as learning management systems.

Recent earnings reports from Pearson, Coursera and Infrastructure, the company behind the dominant Canvas learning management system, all featured a heavy dose of generative AI and product talk. At a high level the takeaways are:

  • Courseware will get generative AI and large learning models (LLMs) that will highlight proprietary IP and datasets from education companies.
  • Learning management systems will embed generative AI and create alliances with companies that are disruptors.
  • Education will leverage generative AI for personalized learning experiences and create content at scale.

Here's a tour of what's happening in the education technology stack.

Pearson: Sees AI value in proprietary data

Pearson is best known for its courseware and typically known as an education publisher. CEO Andy Bird said generative AI will create turbulence in education, but the technology is likely to be a "long term positive" for Pearson's business in higher education and across the portfolio.

"We believe the value of our proprietary IP and datasets will increase over time. We have deep AI experience and expertise across the whole company. We're starting to introduce new AI enabled products across the business," said Bird, speaking on the company’s earnings conference call. "What this interest does demonstrate is the real value to be had of owning your own intellectual property. We're also continuing to monitor legal and legislative developments very closely."

Bird, who noted Pearson is early in its AI journey, said there are positive implications of embedding generative AI into its higher-ed courseware. "We've been working with one goal in mind, namely, how to improve the learning experience for both faculty and student," said Bird. "We're not interested in utilizing this technology merely to provide students with a shortcut to an answer. When we tested different LLMs with a question from Campbell's Biology, they often didn't get it correct. So, we believe delivering products that are reliable, accurate and trustworthy is paramount."

Tony Prentice, Pearson's chief product officer, said the company is embedding generative AI into its Pearson+ and MyLab & Mastering study tools. The takeaway: Pearson can leverage its content library and surface insights and educational opportunities with generative AI.

Infrastructure: Working AI into Canvas

Infrastructure, the company behind learning management system Canvas, said it will partner and embed generative AI throughout its platform. CEO Steve Daly said the goal is to leverage generative AI "to empower educators to meet students where they are in their educational journey."

Canvas has launched an emerging AI marketplace that will give educators access to AI tools that are integrated into Canvas and ensure privacy and security, said Daly.

At its InfrastructureCon 2023 conference, Infrastructure outlined the following advances in its platform:

  • A partnership with Khan Academy, which will bring Khan Academy AI-tools and content to Canvas. The two companies are looking for design partners and early adopters for the 2024-2025 school year.
  • AI-assisted course templating layouts to improve efficiency, reduce administrative tasks and pace assignments.
  • In-context student support with the integration of AI writing tutor Khanmigo, part of Khan Academy.
  • AI tools to surface analytics and insights.

Coursera: Multiple AI plays

Coursera is worth watching in the education stack for a few reasons. First, it's a higher-ed play. But it also has a big enterprise training business as well as a consumer unit. Coursera is aiming to not only use generative AI for content, but also to reskill employees and democratize knowledge about AI.

In the first quarter, Coursera outlined where AI fits in the reskilling space. Now Coursera has Coursera Coach, "a virtual learning partner, powered by generative AI and grounded in our expert content."

Speaking about Coursera Coach, CEO Jeff Maggioncalda said:

"It is designed to allow learners to ask questions and receive personalized explanations and answers, get personalized evaluations and feedback on their submissions, receive context-relevant examples and practice questions. And discover quick video lecture summaries and resources to better understand a specific concept. We launched a beta version of Coach to millions of Coursera Plus subscribers during the quarter and continue to be excited about the early feedback."

The company also launched Coursera ChatGPT, a plug-in to surface and personalize Coursera's catalog.

Maggioncalda said Coursera ChatGPT is "like an academic counselor." "The ChatGPT plugin allows learners using GPT-4 to identify recommended content and credentials based on the subject or career field the learner says they’re interested in exploring. It’s one example of the initiatives we are working on related to generative AI and reimagining the personalized discovery experience," said Maggioncalda.

Coursera also has a machine learning translation effort to localize content at scale. In the second quarter, Coursera delivered subtitle translation for 2,000 courses in seven different languages.