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Artificial Intelligence: The Needed Catalyst to Change Education

As conversations across tech echo one another on the rapid growth, and resulting risks, of artificial intelligence, the team at CodePath has been utilizing our vast network of employers, top engineers, and thought leaders to examine how AI can optimize our most powerful source for good: education. We’ve been wrestling with questions of automation, authenticity, and accessibility, and what this means for the future of engineering roles.

Machines learn in similar ways as humans — by building blocks and gathering more information until they can draw conclusions in a similar manner to how synapses in the brain make connections. However, AI is not a replacement for human intelligence, but rather a tool to increase productivity and eliminate tasks that do not require creativity, strategy, and abstract thinking.

The systems that underpin the global landscape, ranging from governmental programs to education to infrastructure, often need to be redesigned to become more modern and more efficient. As technology evolves, we hope to fundamentally redesign these systems through emerging AI capabilities, making them more efficient, equitable, scalable, and fault-tolerant.

AI is already and will undoubtedly continue to impact engineering roles, but the question we must answer is how to utilize the invention of new tools to reprogram how engineers learn technical skills, and in turn, how employers source their talent to be best prepared for this changing landscape.

CodePath considers flexibility a core principle to adapt rapidly as both technology and society change. As we build for the next generation of CTOs, founders, and engineers, we take into consideration these key ideas:

AI is inevitable

AI tools and workflows are quickly becoming crucial skills for all software engineers, and we maintain that CodePath is the best possible pathway to gain a computer science education, especially for low-income students. AI is going to change these roles forever — increasing AI integration into human-driven tasks, requiring new skill sets, and challenging engineers who can’t keep up with the evolving technology.

The AI that exists today requires extensive human oversight

AI can generate certain snippets or files of code and automate certain individual technical tasks, but it draws only from what has been done before in training data. Software engineers do substantially more than just write one-off snippets of code given a prompt, and it will be decades before AI can truly “replace” rather than supercharge engineers. If AI led every decision, we would never evolve, but rather simply stagnate. 

AI lacks an intricate understanding of business logic, user experience nuances, and the big picture of complex full-stack feature/business needs and software systems — this means that human input, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills remain crucial. By continuing our work to reshape the way higher education teaches computer science, CodePath is supporting development of these skills at an earlier inflection point, further supporting early talent before they enter the workforce.

AI will require engineers to be more well-rounded, with a higher level of practical skills training

Prompt engineering may open doors for students with more diverse study areas to enter technology, such as humanities or linguistics backgrounds. Some estimates predict 80% of the U.S. workforce will have at least 10% of their work tasks replaced or augmented by AI, including engineers. This means hiring practices will place a greater emphasis on engineers who can not only build the technology, but also understand its use-case and how to best optimize it. 

Demand for engineers who are able to stay ahead of the curve will only accelerate, and the challenge in hiring these engineers will drive massive investments in the training and upskilling of existing engineers. As we harness the power of generative AI and cultivate the human skills necessary to carry forward these new tools, we are poised to radically transform our societies for the better. 

This starts with education.

CodePath anticipates serious changes to how engineering students will need to prepare for the roles that companies need to fill, and that tech companies will prioritize more well-rounded candidates, resulting in a major talent shortage. There will also be a period of serious investment to increase the size of this applicant pool — something CodePath can help do quickly and at scale. 

By Fall 2023, CodePath will begin to roll out AI tutoring, career coaching, and personalized support to all of our students, regardless of which school they attend. We aim to decrease our cost per student by almost 50%, getting us closer to our goal of educating 100,000 computer science students within the next five years. AI will also enable CodePath to further customize our instruction personalization for each student.

As with all technologies, CodePath is focused on thoughtful, ethical, and intentional use — AI is no different. We cannot allow these tools to cause any harm or create bias, and AI needs to have the proper alignment and rigorous safeguard testing before deployment. Though AI stands to significantly amplify impact, increase personalization, reduce costs, and improve experience, it will never replace the essential human interaction and relationships that drive education forward.

At CodePath, we see the expansion of AI as one of the greatest opportunities in this generation for an exponential increase in efficiency and effectiveness in education. We're making sure our students are uniquely positioned with access to the best possible technology to support their journeys.