Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education

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By Miranda Stephen — May 16, 2019 11:00 AM


Over the years, artificial intelligence (AI) has increased in production across various industries and spectrums. AI is poised to
grow by 47.7 percent between 2018 to 2022. AI has been reinforced has an on-demand technology of the moment. AI involves the collection of algorithms and data to increase machine learning and pattern recognition. AI manipulates information and repeats processes which proves beneficial for anticipating the wants and needs of your target audience. Universities and colleges are sitting on heaps of data that are not being utilized within the higher education sector. As an untapped potential, AI works to revitalize that data and process it far beyond human capabilities. Within higher education, AI offers a huge support in boosting enrollment, improving recruitment processes, and personalizing student outreach.

Recruiting and Enrolling Students with AI

The admissions process for prospective students can be daunting and time-consuming. College-bound students will first migrate to the web in pursuit of information about academic programs, student life, cost, and more. Provide prospective students with interactive AI to curtail to their specific academic interests and needs. The inclusion of AI in website design couples with design to minimize the wordiness and dense nature of a webpage. AI steps in as a generic source of information that is catered to a countless amount of prospective students on the individual level.

The interactive force increases engagement with prospective students seeking quick and concise information. The AI features provide a defense line against summer melt; a common lag in undergraduate enrollment. Chatbots are a popular AI that virtually assists students navigating the admissions process. A chatbot can be set up to respond to frequently asked questions so that information is easily accessible. Chatbots may be enabled on the web in addition to social media response teams moderating instant messaging on social media platforms.

When prospective students visit the digital platforms of their prospective school of choice, it is important to add to their user experience as if they were present on campus. Accommodate their questions, interests, and remarks by managing the engagement of content. Georgia State University hosts a chatbot on their website that uses an algorithm that provides outreach and support to prospective students. The system, “Pounce”, integrates student data to provide solutions and answers or requires further assistance. For example, prospective students who have not yet completed their FAFSA will immediately be directed to prompts that encourage its completion. While nothing will ever replace the unique humanist aspect of academic professionals interacting with prospective students throughout the recruitment and enrollment process, AI provides answers and solutions to common inquiries collected from data that give back time to academic professionals and prospective students.

Retaining Students interacting with AI

As prospective students transition to current students, their individual needs are then catered to the pursuit of student support. Current students will need assistance in regards to academics, campus life, degree insight, and various support inquiries. AI digests data to locate and assist students that require further information and insight into how they may best succeed as a student. Characterized as “narrow AI”, this specialization of AI locates correlations of data and produces algorithms to make connections and engage with students. In regards to first-year student retention, six out of ten will remain at their institution. More than a third of undergraduate students transfer after their first year. As colleges and universities work so hard to attain students, there are evident errors in maintaining students. Retaining students becomes easier through the implementation of AI technology. With the addition of AI bots, students will be within reach of various solutions to their individual inquiries. For example, a student at risk of transferring will be located through academic data points and algorithms will provide solutions as the data net related to student success is expanded through AI.

Campus Life and AI

IBM Watson is a supercomputer AI technology that improves learning outcomes by providing solutions to academic problems to aid in the success of students. Similar to Amazon’s “Alexa” and Google’s virtual assistant, students are able to inquire the AI technology to answer common questions such as food on campus or to locate study groups. The technology is highly effective and responsive for students. With consent, the system engages with students by collecting information pertaining to social groups and academic data to provide detailed responses curtailed to the individual student’s needs. Deakin University in Australia first collaborated with Watson and yielded overwhelmingly positive results.

AI has expanded its use into the realm of online learning. IBM provides students across the world access to an integration of Mandarin language classes online called The Mandarin Project. Communicating with a virtual tutoring assistant rather than a teacher, students are able to practice their Mandarin comprehension through innovative AI technology. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Ashok Goel created “Jill Watson” off the foundation of IBM’s Watson to communicate with students as teaching assistants. Goel made headlines when he discovered students in his master-level courses were unable to distinguish between the AI “Jill Watson” and his actual human teaching assistants!

Concluding to the Future of AI

Through AI technologies, colleges and universities are more equipped to understand their students and provide in-depth solutions and insight into student success. AI technology is leaving its mark and setting up a foundation of endless opportunities for higher education to utilize siloed away data. The future of AI looks to personalize and expedite the admissions process by adopting administrative roles to best provide prospective students and their families with information and defend against summer melt. Retention efforts will be more proactive in engaging with at-risk students and have a greater react time to student inquiries. The learning possibilities for students to expand their academic horizons and educational pursuits. AI technology is here to stay and is expected to continue developing to increase in quality and respond to new data.

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Miranda Stephen
Sales & Marketing Intern