On a balmy summer's day in San Francisco, Milena Marinova is sitting on the roof terrace of the offices of Pearson, a company in the midst of a radical transformation from publishing powerhouse to digital-education platform, wrapped in a gray shawl and explaining how she plans to build advanced, deep-learning algorithms that could educate the next generation of students. This is no easy task. With millions of students using its education-software, Pearson has amassed "terrabytes" of data from student homework and even textbooks that have been digitized, data that Marinova is now pulling together to build software that can automatically give students feedback on their work like a teacher would. Instead of just telling them that an answer is right or wrong, a future update to Pearson's math homework tool will give more detailed feedback on how they went wrong in the steps taken to get an answer, Marinova told Forbes in an interview. Pearson is starting with math because the topic is relatively easy to structure and digitize.
Pearson is concentrating efforts in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and has hired a former Intel executive, Milena Marinova, to be its senior vice president for AI products and solutions. The appointment has been described as "first of its kind" for the education industry. Marinova, who was previously senior director of AI Solutions for Intel's Artificial Intelligence Products Group, will act as a spokesperson for the role of AI in education while spearheading "the digital and AI transformation of Pearson". At Intel, Marinova led the development for commercial applications of AI across various industries, including Internet of Things, robotics and AR/VR, and advised Intel Capital on investments in these areas. She also previously held executive roles at Idealab, a startup incubator, and Hyundai Capital America.
Having used IBM's Watson technology to create a virtual learning assistant, Pearson has played a significant role in driving forward the development of artificial intelligence in higher education. Now the international education company is poised to take the next step by developing an AI tool that can grade university essays. Pearson's tool, which is currently being developed for piloting in US higher education, is not the first product of its type; similar platforms have been developed at the University of Manchester and at the University of California, Berkeley. But Pearson's global reach and its experience of using Watson – which can analyse huge amounts of text and data and use this to answer complex questions in natural language – could mean that its new tool represents a significant step forward. Milena Marinova, who has been hired by Pearson from chipmaker Intel to lead its work on AI, told Times Higher Education that the new tool would be able to mark essays in a more sophisticated fashion than previous grading assistants.
This article was co-written by Chris Davis and Brandon Metzger. From detailed homework review to back office automation, progress in artificial intelligence will continue to explode in the year ahead. In 2018, Metis Strategy interviewed nearly 40 CIOs, CDOs and CTOs of companies with over $1 billion in revenue as part of our Technovation podcast and column. When asked to identify the emerging technologies that are of growing interest or are making their way onto their 2019 roadmap, 75 percent of the technology leaders highlighted artificial intelligence, while 40 percent said blockchain and 13 percent cited the Internet of Things. AI, an umbrella term for technologies that enable machines to accomplish tasks that previously required human intelligence, could rapidly upend the competitive landscape across industries.
At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, students are immersing themselves in Chinese culture without setting foot outside their classroom. The Mandarin Project, a collaboration between RPI, located in upstate New York, and the tech giant IBM, places students in a virtual world where they can practice their Mandarin language skills in a series of simulated scenarios, such as ordering lunch in a restaurant or taking a tai chi class. The project aims to make students feel as if they are actually in China, without the inconvenience of traveling there, says Helen Zhou, assistant professor of communication and media at RPI, who has been actively involved in designing the project. In a high-tech "cognitive immersive room," a classroom with a 360-degree floor-to-ceiling screen, students can practice their Mandarin with artificial intelligence-powered animated characters (including a floating panda head). The CIR combines several emerging technologies -- natural language processing, speech-to-text and movement tracking -- to create a unique learning experience, said Zhou.