Will Tutors Be Replaced by AI?

By Drew B | Sunday, February 26, 2023

ChatGPT is the talk of the town these days. As someone who runs a tutoring platform, I'm now regularly asked, "Are all your human tutors going to be replaced by AI?"

Which misses the point.

Now, let me preface this by saying: like you, I have more questions than answers here. This space is evolving quickly. Very quickly. But, I thought it'd be helpful to share one perspective from the vantage point of an edtech founder, trying to sort through the rapidly changing landscape in real-time.

My initial reactions to ChatGPT were probably not unlike your own. First, there was this sense of awe—the novelty stemming in large part from the humanness of its responses. Shortly after this novelty phase came the adversarial phase, as it became a game of trying to mess with the AI. How can I get it to trip up? (Hint: try 7-digit multiplication.) My expectations were tempered—until then came the extrapolation phase. If the AI has improved this much in 6 months, where will it be in another 6 months? Isn't it only time until it achieves human-level accuracy? I sure wouldn't want to bet against this technology.

Then my mind turned to the practical: perhaps we should reframe the question and treat the inevitable as an assumption. Assuming human-level accuracy AI chatbots, what's the uniquely human role that we can (and should) play? And what does it look like for us to leverage AI and work in tandem with it?

There's a meme going around along the lines of how "AI will not replace you. But a human using AI will." Like many memes, there's considerable truth to this.

As someone running a tutoring platform, it is clear that even a perfectly adaptive AI chatbot would only deliver half the value of tutoring. Why? The other half of the battle is getting students to show up and engage in the first place; to see themselves as humans worthy of another human's helping hand.

A student may rush home from sports practice to make it to their tutoring session to avoid letting down their tutor. But an AI tutor that frowns when you miss your session? Not quite the same thing. Simply knowing it's an AI changes the interpersonal dynamics.

Tutoring is not just about adapting to the student and answering their questions. It's about motivating them and inspiring them. It's about supporting them.

And so, the question we now ask ourselves at Schoolhouse.world: how can we arm learners and tutors with cutting-edge AI technology? Clearly, AI brings considerable value. So how can we supercharge tutors to better support learners?

As the meme goes: a tutor is not going to be replaced by AI. If anything, they will be replaced by another tutor—one that is leveraging AI.

In my next post, I'll share examples of ways we're already starting to leverage AI at Schoolhouse.

Thank you to Ishani B, Maya B, and Sharon V for providing feedback on this post.

Written by Drew Bent, Co-Founder of Schoolhouse.world. [email protected]

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