Teachers teach, but they also have a long list of other things to do in the course of providing their students with the best possible environment, coursework, motivation and support to maximize their students’ academic performance. K-12 teachers put in long days, averaging about 10 hours each day, according to a study by McKinsey & Company. Less than half of that time, teachers are directly engaged with learners.

A significant amount of their hours are spent preparing students for quizzes, and in doing so creating practice questions; but D2L, a global learning technology company, believes it has the solution to help teachers reclaim those hours, through a new generative AI beta program to can churn out practice questions using existing course content. The hours saved by the automated  program can be better utilized by teachers to directly engage their learners.

“The practice questions beta program fill the gaps between our instructional designers and academic experts,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pearsall, Vice Provost of Teaching & Learning at the American College of Financial Services. “It’s easy to use and has a straightforward learning curve. The accuracy of the questions was good. Given that the capacity is integrated within D2L Brightspace and questions are based on content created in Brightspace, it is convenient to use.” Brightspace is a software educational platform to assist teachers in supporting  their students in online learning, according to D2L.

The program automatically generates practice questions from existing course content and materials. That component was launched in September 2023. In January, 2024, D2L launched a program that automatically generates Brightspace quiz questions from existing course content and materials. Both programs were launched in North America, to a limited base, but there are plans to expand it.

According to a survey by Hart Research, one of the leading public opinion research firms in the U.S., a majority of educators and parents embrace the use of technology in the classroom, but want to see guardrails in place that would protect students. The Survey of Teachers and Parents on Educational Technology found that approximately three out of four teachers use “educational technology daily in communication, planning and preparation, and whole-class or large-group discussion. But more than 8 out of 10 teachers surveyed also said they should have more oversight as to how the technology is deployed.

The survey also found that 55% of parents would like to have more influence on how AI is deployed in the classroom. And three out of four educators say their students have never used AI software or AI search engines like Bard and ChatGPT for learning.

The integration of AI into the classroom has been an issue of much discussion, and the American Federation of Teachers has addressed AI technology on numerous occasions.

“This survey debunks many myths,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, in a statement released on Oct. 12. 2023. “Education Technology is embraced by the nation’s educators and parents, but they want a say in how it is introduced and used and want guardrails in place, particularly guardrails for kids’ use of social media.”

President Weingarten chimed in again on the issue last October, in an opinion column published in the New York Times, saying “Now, educators are confronting a juggernaut that is swiftly revolutionizing education and society: generative AI. And they are largely figuring it out without any guidance, including from their schools and districts. The AFT is advocating for policies that will help maximize the benefits and limit the perils of AI, and we are offering educators tools and guidance to prepare their students for this new world.”

Ms. Weingarten listed some of the benefits of using AI in education, including learning personalized to each student, data analysis to improve teaching methods, reducing onerous paperwork for teachers, and having AI to do one of the most time-consuming tasks that teachers undertake, to correct grammar and spelling on writing assignments. The task of evaluating students’ arguments and analyses on writing assignments would still be performed by teachers, she said.

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers: Paraprofessionals and other school related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and health care workers and early childhood educators, according to its website.