Skip to content

Will Artificial Intelligence Terminate or Transform Homework?


In a previous article, we discussed the benefits and challenges of assigning homework. Three key ingredients stood out when making homework effective but it takes teachers too much time and too often, homework goes unfinished by students.

Is generative artificial intelligence (AI) the technology that is going to transform homework for teachers or make it irrelevant?

To appreciate what AI will need to do for teachers and students, it's worth directing the time a teacher spends setting homework.

Teachers have to spend time in three areas to create effective homework

  1. Teachers have to brainstorm the concept for the homework. Ideally, if they want to make it more personal, they have to include the student’s interests and language level. 
  2. Teachers need to find the homework on free or paid websites or create it themselves from scratch. Pre-made homework will naturally be standardised and generic so it can take a teacher a while to find the right material(s). Creating from scratch will take a lot longer but is much more likely to be made for the individual student. 
  3. Teachers have to then provide feedback. There are different ways to approach this. Will the teacher provide specific feedback on every activity they set? In what timeframe? What expectations are there for the teacher and student?

Having established that setting homework is a time-consuming task, buys teachers will be tempted to skip homework, provide generic assignments and skimp on feedback.

Now imagine there was a way for teachers to complete these three tasks in 5 minutes as opposed to taking 15 - 30 minutes? Would teachers be more likely to set homework more often?

How Can AI Transform Homework Generation?

It's currently very feasible to use a free tool like ChatGPT 3.5 to generate a brainstorm of homework ideas with just a few prompts. After a few minutes, it's possible to turn this idea into a comprehensive and personalised homework exercise using the same tool. Once the student has completed it, the teacher could paste this into the same AI tool and ask for personalised feedback.

The prospect of a teacher creating personalised homework with minimal time and effort completely changes the calculation going through every teacher's head - Is it worth doing? It might not have been worth investing 20 minutes to provide homework for each student but it might be worth investing 5 minutes.

However, this is the same question in every student's mind... Is it worth doing homework in 20 minutes or giving it to ChatGPT to do in 5 seconds?


Does AI Make Homework Irrelevant?

The same teacher tool that makes it easy for teachers to generate homework can make it tempting for students to avoid completing it (themselves).

Just like teachers, students are often torn between many other responsibilities or interests. Students can have their homework completed in seconds by a free AI, and likely "get away with it".

This is true, but no more so than before ChatGPT. Many students may lack the motivation to complete homework. Some students "cheat" themselves by copying the homework of peers or finding others to do it for them.

However, now with AI the homework that teachers set can be much higher quality (clear, appropriate and engaging) and take teachers a lot less time. 

ChatGPT for Teachers: What makes it such an exciting tool?

Unlike a human teacher, an AI teacher assistant is tireless, reasonably consistent and willing to do all sorts of tedious work for no pay. Before ChatGPT, generative AI results and range were very limited. You might need three different AI tools to brainstorm, set and provide feedback on homework.

With ChatGPT 3.5 launching in November 2022, the standard jumped up a number of levels. ChatGPT, for example, can do a very broad of activities surprisingly well, including creating homework that feels like it was written by a human. You can give ChatGPT further instructions to help it create English homework for any of the four language skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) that align with the time constraints and motivations of the student. You can also give ChatGPT the student's answer and have it correct mistakes and provide fast, accurate personal feedback.

GPT-4 and future versions are getting even more exciting. ChatGPT 3.5 was limited to generating and responding to text. ChatGPT 4.0 is multi-modal so is able to generate and respond to text and images. This opens new opportunities.

Image of ChatGPT 4 image and text English homework dialogue

For example, English language teachers could be soon able to drop an image into ChatGPT (image-to-text), use their voice to provide quick instructions on a listening exercise they want (speech-to-text), and have ChatGPT generate a personal exercise for a student aligning with the students level, motivation and learning goal (text-to-speech).

Alternatively, an English teacher could just ask a student to talk with an AI Language Tutor for 10 minutes each day. This might be done via text now but how far away is it until photorealistic (and non-creepy) AI Language Tutors can talk with students just like online human tutors teach online?

AI - reading between the lines

AI technology is getting better and better at identifying patterns and insights from data. In language education, this could mean that AI can uncover learning opportunities that might be missed by an average human teacher. It might be the AI can pick out a grammar point that clearly the student hasn't understood or a phrase that a student overly relies upon.

The trick will be to share these insights with students in a way they find motivating and non-intrusive. Quite honestly, we don't know how human beings will react to AI analysing their every word and communicating with humans directly.

One possibility is that AI is really good at extracting insights, the AI can communicate those insights clearly to the student and the student reacts productively to that communication. However, there's also a chance that the experience just jars badly with students and they want that human translator.

This isn't the only potential issue with AI.

Downsides of AI in Homework Generation

Firstly, to make language homework more personal using ChatGPT for teachers, we need to provide the AI homework generator with additional data about the particular student. This exposes data security and privacy risks that students might be uncomfortable with. The student, teacher, school, and everyone will want to feel confident that students’ data is not easy for anyone to access and, even if it were accessed, that it is subsequently protected enough that it makes it hard for anyone to utilise that information.

There is the concern of teachers becoming overly dependent on AI homework generation. If we only ask AI to create homework, do we lose that human touch and worse, do teachers gradually lose their skill for homework creation? This echoes with a similar, and very often asked question - Will AI replace teachers? It's possible that an AI homework generator would get so good that teachers won't need to be involved in homework but the biggest problem right now is that teachers don't create homework in the first place due to the limitations discussed above. 

AI has the well-documented issue of bias and stereotypes. At LearnCube, we've been testing and can confirm clear biases and stereotypes from AI image generation. Why when we ask Midjourney (an AI image-generator) for an image of a doctor - it only shows whit men? As AI tools are trained on huge data sets, sometimes as large as the whole internet, AI tools reinforce stereotypes and bias. This must not be further entrenched and needs to be resisted. 

How to Mitigate Downsides of AI in Homework 

We at LearnCube are thinking deeply about what we can do around AI and Homework. Firstly, we ensure that student data is secure and protected. Secondly, we're designing AI-generated Homework so that it must be reviewed by the teacher. Teachers have the people skills to soften or round out some of the rough edges of AI taking on the task of homework (including resisting bias and stereotypes). They can edit every response to make sure it matches the values of all stakeholders. The overall should result in students completing more personal, engaging homework and progressing their language learning journey faster.

We look forward to sharing more about how LearnCube's AI Homework Assistant in the coming weeks and months. Here's a sneak peak from our 'alpha' test with teachers.

LearnCube Teacher Assistant alpha version




Be notifed of our new materials!

Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur.