Upgrading quality in VET by exploiting AI capacity to bridge across disciplines

Upgrading quality in VET by exploiting AI capacity to bridge across disciplines


With a plethora of trends in labour markets internationally, there is a strong ongoing discourse regarding who better copes with constant and turbulent changes – specialists or generalists? This debate becomes even more interesting with the introduction of artificial intelligence, which offers unlimited possibilities for the virtual combination of different, even contradicting, academic subjects or even arts. Clearly, education is also adjusting to this changing environment, and Vocational Education and Training is no different. In fact, while Higher Education fluctuates from general to special, VET tends to focus more on skill-driven specialized knowledge.

As a drawback, the specialized education may frame the options of VET alumni as rather limited when compared with opportunities coming from other sectors. To draw an analogy, a student may focus on one subject in isolation when using generative AI process information. Each subject has a narrow scope, as the student must gain depth regarding a subject. At least, this is the common perception accompanying the introduction of AI tools in the training process. However, at the same time, there are subjects that, alike neurons, are connecting to one another – or when connected, they open new fields of action or launch different perspectives. Even graphic design is connected to math, with the one example being scalable vector graphics.

Indeed, as we explore, we find more connections, which explicitly indicate the advantages of interconnectivity despite specialization. The connection can be masterfully demonstrated by AI, which works on the basis of data correlation itself. To better paint the picture, a VET student who makes proper use of ChatGPT is much more capable of exploring the links between a subject they like and one they don’t. This way, they may develop a new interest and, in some cases, skilfulness in areas that they were unknown to them or completely misinterpreted.

What are the benefits of this process?

Using artificial intelligence as a tool in the learning process which highlights the interconnectivity of disciplines and helps possibly expand the VET learners’ interests or develop a better understanding of the “bigger picture”, contributes to upgrading the quality of VET in Europe – a continent which, so far, has a greater respect to academic studies. The more the learners explore interdisciplinarity, the more they unlock their creativity, and they engage in research, leading to innovative ideas.

In more practical, everyday terms, the breadth and wealth that the introduction of AI tools can offer in the training process, helps the VET learners use generative AI more creatively. Rather than using AI as a cheatsheet, they can benefit from a more productive use which will enable them to combine data, initiate new thought processes and invest in multi-dimensional thinking.

On the other hand, a VET teacher can use AI chatbots as a diagnostic tool to find the driving forces of individual students, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their thought processes from any follow up questions.

Furthermore, the connections across disciplines inspired by generative AI can be used in order to establish potential collaborations among universities, VET institutes and research centres – and sometimes start-ups or companies in general. This philosophy may be new in some countries, but it is very popular in Western European countries, such as the Netherlands, where there are incubators which bring together university and VET students, along with investors and start-ups. Provenly, these collaborations allow the participants to work together and see things under diverse prisms, contributing to an overall advancement of the involved sectors.

VET will benefit from AI

Addressed with a wide scepticism from the European societies as opposed to tertiary education, the VET sector is still struggling to reverse the perception of lower quality studies. The introduction of artificial intelligence, if used as a substitute of knowledge and not as a booster, can be detrimental to both the quality of VET studies and the future VET alumni’s prospects. If introduced correctly, nevertheless, AI can be extremely beneficial, unlocking VET learners’ creativity and supporting innovation, out-of-the box thinking and a much broader understanding of how systems correlate to each other, and different disciplines can be combined. Overall, the introduction of AI in VET Curricula could increase the VET alumni’s employability and smoothen their pathway to formal education, i.e. master or PhDs offered by academic centres, through permitting a better comprehension of interdisciplinary and intersectoral concepts.

Alexandros Sainidis & Victoria Topalidi

What we asked:

Dear ChatGPT. As a student I like physics but I don’t like chemistry. I feel like chemistry is \too irrelevant because I really just want to focus on the aerodynamic design of cars. Is there any way chemistry could help me here?

What ChatGPT answered:

Absolutely, chemistry plays a significant role in the aerodynamic design of cars, albeit in ways that might not be immediately obvious. Here are a few ways in which chemistry intersects with aerodynamics in automotive design:

Materials Science: Chemistry is crucial in materials science, which is fundamental to aerodynamics. The development of lightweight, strong, and flexible materials can significantly influence the aerodynamics of a car. By understanding the chemical properties of materials, you can make informed decisions about which materials are best suited for reducing drag and improving fuel efficiency.

Surface Coatings and Paints: The surface treatment of a car, including its paint and coatings, can impact aerodynamics. Specialized coatings can reduce surface friction or help in managing airflow over the vehicle's body. Chemistry is key in developing these coatings, ensuring they are durable, effective, and environmentally friendly.

Fuel Chemistry: While this is more about the efficiency of the car rather than its external aerodynamics, the chemistry of fuels is crucial in determining how efficiently a car can convert fuel into motion. Advancements in fuel chemistry can lead to more efficient combustion, which, when combined with aerodynamic design, results in better overall vehicle performance.

Environmental Considerations: Understanding the chemical impact of materials and fuels on the environment is essential. As the automotive industry moves towards more sustainable practices, knowledge of chemistry helps in developing eco-friendly materials and fuels.

Thermal Dynamics: Managing the heat generated by the car, both from the engine and due to air resistance, is another aspect where chemistry plays a role. Materials that can withstand high temperatures while maintaining performance are critical in aerodynamic designs.

Adhesives and Sealants: Strong, lightweight adhesives and sealants, developed through chemical engineering, are important for maintaining the integrity of aerodynamic components and ensuring they perform as expected under various conditions.

In summary, while aerodynamics is primarily a field within physics, chemistry provides essential support in materials development, surface treatments, fuel efficiency, environmental sustainability, thermal management, and the use of adhesives and sealants. This multidisciplinary approach is what leads to the innovative and efficient aerodynamic designs in modern cars.
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