Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the technology of the moment. And rightly so, as AI has started to sweep through industries and disrupt them. And it’s not stopping at the front gates of Universities and Colleges.
AI involves algorithms and data which improves over time, often known as machine learning. The benefits of this technology lie in pattern recognition, manipulating information and automating repeatable processes.
Colleges and Universities clearly have lots of data and plenty of repeatable tasks. They also have customers with very high technology expectations - students. It’s therefore no exaggeration to say that these technologies are set to solve some of the sector’s biggest challenges.
So let’s talk about AI`s potential in Higher Education. Until more recently universities and colleges have been collecting huge amounts of digital information, but it has typically been under utilized and siloed - a dormant untapped potential. Human power alone cannot process it effectively. AI and machine learning technology on the other hand can, by tapping into this data, and processing it, analyzing it and personalizing it, in order for Universities and Colleges to make better informed decisions.
Yes, it is relatively complex still and remains challenging to implement on the ground. That said, it is getting easier with solutions like Amazon's Machine Learning tool sets. But educational institutions around the world are in fact already successfully harnessing it’s power with an array of AI applications for a wide range of functions. From improved recruitment processes, easier enrollment, more personalized student support and lifelong learning opportunities, AI offers huge potential.
We’ve spoken to our clients and trawled the web to discover some of the best uses of AI in Higher Education and here is a round-up of the innovative applications currently out there.
AI and Student Recruitment
AI helping to select students: according to Imperial College London’s Alice Gast, universities may soon use AI to select the most appropriate students through evaluating a mix of available social network data, online questionnaires, and psychological testing.
AI and Student Enrollment Retention (aka helping solve the 'summer helt')
AI supporting student enrollment: to reverse a growing trend in 'summer melt' (where prospective college students' motivation to attend college "melts" away during the summer), Georgia State University has introduced a machine learning virtual assistant. GSU has deployed their AI chatbot to respond to enrollment and financial aid questions. The system takes a statistical approach and responds to questions if it has over 95% certainty of providing an accurate response to them. If it’s less, it can create a trigger to connect the prospective student to a member of staff to help. Over time, and with each question it receives and responds to, the system gets more intelligent. The trial resulted in a 21.4 percent decrease in summer melt and an increase of enrollment of 3.9 per cent.
AI and Bots to help students
AI answers University related questions: Deakin University has implemented IBM’s Watson - a supercomputer technology - which assists students with queries instantaneously.
IBM Watson is an ideal partner for integrating complex decision trees to convey answers in a conversation-friendly language. And, much like Amazon’s Alexa, students can ask Watson pretty much anything, from where to find food on campus, querying room bookings, to checking where to find study support. For the majority of relevant student queries it now has an answer up it’s sleeve.
To achieve this seemingly simplistic conversational response for students, Deakin has had to invest in mapping huge amounts of questions and answers and create the initial relevant logic. From there on in, the solution’s capability grows as it receives more and more queries and improves it’s responses and accuracy over time. The result is highly effective and a useful tool for students.
AI and improving student attention spans
AI helping students focus: a more recent application of the technology helps students who are distracted by social media and the web get back to focus by using personalized motivational messages that pop up on screen.
AI and learning
AI supporting learning: While the above applications of AI mostly relate to administrative tasks, in future, it may transform the way we learn itself. From individual tutoring systems to virtual reality simulations, real-time progress updates and continuous study offerings for graduates and lifelong learners, AI will turn the way we learn upside down.
As you can see, AI is not all robots and sci-fi. Far from it, we can use the technology to transform mundane or complex data-heavy tasks to gain better outcomes. Whilst at the outset the concept can appear unnerving, the true potential of AI is unlocked when it is combined with people. And if it’s applied in the right way, AI will radically transform university processes and the student experience for the better.
Where do you see the greatest potential for AI in Universities and Colleges? Have you used AI in your own University of College? Do you use AI or machine learning to "buy" student recruitment leads? We would love to hear from you.