The future of online language teaching: Is AI about to take our jobs?

July 4th, 2024 / Teaching

Republished from TEFL Insider on Substack.

With the prospect of Alexa-style tutors on the horizon, online language training companies are looking to AI to bypass human teachers and maximise profits.

While removing the human element of teaching has obvious consequences for tutors, what are the costs to students? And if we are taught by bots in the future, what impact will it have on learning outcomes?

Well, as a language teacher I have my thoughts, but first up, let’s look at current developments in the online teaching sector. One of the most prominent examples of AI in the classroom comes from a well-known, San Francisco-based training company (which shall remain nameless) which rolled out an AI “Lesson Assistant” in the summer of 2023. On the surface, the Lesson Assistant helps tutors by creating a lesson summary at the end of the class.

Take a look at the many Reddit threads dedicated to this company, however, and you realise how sinister the Lesson Assistant really is. The software records all classes and cannot be turned off. As such, all conversations, including sensitive information, are captured and recorded. The consequences of this new “innovation” are all over social media. In a notable example, one tutor wrote on a Facebook group about the moment when a student’s disclosure of a personal health problem that not even her husband knew about was recorded in the lesson summary.

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