Is Artificial Intelligence a solution to the challenges of the pandemic?

By Thomas Chiu (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR)

“Artificial Intelligence (AI)” and “COVID-19” are perhaps the most popular research topics in educational technology this year. The focus of my efforts, they feature heavily in my presentations and papers, the last 10 of which have explored their interface in depth.

The explosive growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly transforming the way we live, learn and work. Preparing school teachers to teach AI and teach with AI are important global strategic initiatives in educating the next generation (Chiu and Chai, 2021). In Hong Kong, we have begun to develop an AI K-12 curriculum and have conducted a number of workshops for school teachers. AI topics are also important in my undergraduate and postgraduate e-learning courses, and my students are highly engaged about learning AI technologies and creating their own tools, such as chatbots. These quickly emerging technologies have a disruptive impact on our work, and teaching their use is novel and exciting. AI in teaching promises technologies offering personalized learning experiences, such as appropriate tasks, personal tutoring and mentoring, and can assist teachers to give students feedback and tasks by visualizing student learning processes. All this begs the question: Should we let AI tutors or lecturers do our teaching jobs in remote learning?

As an educator, my head, my heart and my research tell me: No!

What I learned from my research on remote learning during the pandemic is that student wellbeing and growth is crucial in education (Chiu et al., 2021; Chiu, 2021). The importance of supporting the psychological needs of students cannot be understated in designing learning and teaching in technology-infused environments. We should pay more attention to relatedness support and emotional development for student wellbeing when designing technology-infused learning environments. We should also highlight the importance of the collaborative learning need to add specifically mutual peer support and social presence. My research suggests a model of student engagement in online learning that leverages the affordances of educational technology to add digital aspects to the teacher support dimensions, see figure. To engage students behaviorally, cognitively, emotionally and agentically, we generally have two types of support – technology (e.g., LMS, digital resources) and classroom (e.g., teacher and peers).

Perhaps in the near future, AI technology can do a good job in using digital resources to support student psychological needs. So far, my teaching experience with AI tells me that its application in learning and teaching is still nascent, but can be effective in some well-structured (e.g., mathematics and coding) or foundation knowledge. Moving forward, I plan to focus my research efforts on designing AI technology to support students’ psychological needs for better wellbeing and growth.


  • Chiu T. K. F. (2021). Applying the Self-determination Theory (SDT) to explain student engagement and motivation in online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 4, 1-17.
  • Chiu T. K. F., Lin T. J., & Lonka, Kisti. (2021). Motivating online learning: The challenges of COVID-19 and beyond. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher..
  • Chiu T. K. F., & Chai, C. S. (2020). Sustainable Curriculum Planning for Artificial Intelligence Education: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective. Sustainability, 12(14), 5568;
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