Artificial Intelligence (AI)…you think ChatGPT, Amazon Alexa, driverless cars, robots..?
The use of artificial intelligence is expanding into all industries, not just techy futuristic AI applications and products.
The role of AI has expanded into our homes, workplaces, and even colleges. There are a ton of benefits of having AI in higher education, where young adults are soon to join the workforce and will almost inevitably have contact with AI in their careers.
Even though AI is not a panacea, it will definitely change higher education for the good by improving learning outcomes and retention rates. Here’s why…
Challenges in the Current Landscape of Higher Education
While higher education institutions have been instrumental in shaping future leaders until now, they also have to deal with various challenges:
- Accessibility and Affordability: College fees have increased by 153% in the last 40 years (inflation-adjusted). For most students that is simply unaffordable.
- Resources: Maybe not the Ivys, but many colleges are strapped for cash and need to distribute scarce resources wisely. This may lead to some students falling through the cracks and not getting the support they need.
- Quality and Relevance: Ensuring that education remains relevant to the evolving needs of the job market and society, rather than being the pet project of passionate academics who continue to preach theoretical rather than practical ideas.
- Student Success: Monitoring and improving student retention rates and academic success.
- Research and Innovation: Advancing research endeavors and contributing to scientific and societal progress.
AI in Higher Education: 7 Applications On Campus
AI in education can begin to address the challenges within traditional higher education. The applications below are some examples.
1. Personalized Support
If you’ve been lucky enough to attend college, you’ve experienced the dreaded lecture. You may be exhausted after a night working a job to pay off tuition or feeling rough after a night of partying.
Maybe, maybe you are feeling great that day and can’t wait to learn.
We all know that traditional educational models are broken. One-size-fits-all approaches have been challenged by high dropout rates and disengaged students.
Ta-da…AI can tailor student learning to everyone.
So, if you were the party type and in college for the social side (not academic), struggling to keep up with your studies – AI tools can catch on, help student motivation, and potentially stop them from dropping out. Alternatively, you were super motivated to do the best and get the best, AI can also adapt materials to students who are excelling.
One example of AI providing personalized support is the University of Murcia’s AI-enabled chatbot. It answered over 38,000 questions with a 91% accuracy rate, providing student support outside of office hours.
Students felt fully supported by their college, were more motivated, and the university was not required to increase resources.
2. Intelligent Tutoring
You’re tired, it’s late and you have an assignment due in two days.
You’ve been trying to get your head around a concept but can’t seem to understand it. Your professor is barely available at the best of times and only by email.
Bingo…On-demand intelligent tutoring.
Similar to personalized learning systems but more specialized, Intelligent Tutoring Systems focus on specific subjects like mathematics, computer science, or language learning. These AI models can offer one-on-one tutoring sessions, providing feedback immediately (as opposed to in a couple of weeks, or whenever your professor feels like it)
Khanmigo, an experimental AI-powered chatbot developed by Khan Academy, presents a compelling solution for intelligent tutoring in higher ed. Designed to simulate private tutoring, Khanmigo engages with students through text boxes integrated into their lessons.
Khanmigo walks students through problems step-by-step. As students encounter challenges in a lesson, the chatbot prompts them to break down the problem, teaching them how to approach similar issues in the future. This is great for college students who may be juggling studying, working a job, a family and cannot always attend tutorials with their professor
AI chatbots are built on advanced models similar to ChatGPT, designed specifically for educational use. It includes a monitoring system that can alert human supervisors if a student appears to be struggling with mental health. The added safety net can provide support where colleges and universities do not have the resources to spot issues from the outset.
3. AI Assistants
In grade school, you had a teaching assistant in the class.
It gets a bit tricky in college because some courses have a VERY large intake. Think hundreds of students enrolled in a course, all taking different majors.
AI assistants are able to handle inquiries and administrative tasks based on vast amounts of data points. They can handle attendance taking, grading assignments, and responding to common student queries about course materials or deadlines instantly. Educators can focus more on teaching and interaction, rather than paperwork.
Soma is an AI Assistant offering 24/7 support to both students and instructors.
The platform aims to create a more efficient, collaborative, and inclusive learning experience. Instructors can easily train Soma by uploading course materials and weekly readings and customizing the assistant’s capabilities to align with specific course requirements. This lightens the workload for instructors by handling routine student queries and enables immediate, tailored academic assistance for students.
Soma improves student outcomes and enhances retention rates. It also fosters collaboration by aggregating essential resources within the student community.
4. Predictive Analytics for Student Retention
Artificial intelligence in education has a huge benefit in that it can analyze lots of data quickly.
AI can be used to tell you which students are falling behind, what particular areas they struggle in and provide actionable advice to improve their outcomes.
The Watermark Student Success & Engagement Platform is an AI-based solution designed to enhance educational equity and student success in higher education settings. It leverages existing institutional data to provide real-time actionable insights, helping educators identify and support students in need of immediate intervention.
The platform uses predictive modeling to proactively address student challenges and prospects for success. It offers advanced reporting capabilities that don’t require IT intervention, and guided pathways that help educators and students collaboratively plan for academic success.
The platform also includes features for easy attendance tracking and early alert notifications, aimed at optimizing retention and degree completion rates.
5. AI in Academic Research
Spending hours checking for grammatical mistakes, compiling references, or analyzing data?
AI can address many of the pain points in academia, like the ones listed above.
AI tools, like Grammarly, can assist researchers in drafting grants, articles, and books while ensuring grammatical accuracy.
AI can also summarize large volumes of academic literature, helping researchers stay updated. For example, SciSpace’s APA citation generator aids in citation management with a Chrome plug-in to make doing citations and references seamless.
When analyzing data, students can use the power of AI to speed up the process. Polymer Search is an AI-powered tool that transforms spreadsheets into streamlined, flexible databases without requiring coding. Students can simply upload their data, and Polymer will analyze and turn it into an easily searchable web app, offering features like “Smart Pivot” for enhanced data interaction and customization.
However, it’s crucial for students and researchers to critically assess AI outputs and not solely rely on them. While AI tools can enhance efficiency and productivity, they are not a substitute for human creativity and critical thinking.
6. Content Creation and Curation
Since the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022, AI content tools have exploded.
There are now so many tools to help both educators and students to improve the college experience.
AI systems can assist in generating educational content that is tailor-made for specific curricula or student needs.
7. Blockchain and AI for Credential Verification
Combining AI and blockchain in education is a great way to secure and manage academic records in an efficient way, allowing for permanent, tamper-proof storage of academic credits and credentials.
Blockcahin’s cryptographic security enables instant verification of academic history by employers or educational institutions, giving students full control over their own records. This technology not only facilitates seamless credit transfers between schools but also combats fraudulent diplomas, positioning blockchain as a potential new standard in educational record-keeping.
Companies like Blockcerts allow students to store their academic achievements on a certified blockchain, making it easier for potential employers to check and trust their credentials.
What are the ethical considerations of using AI in higher education?
AI in higher education brings about ethical implications that need to be considered. Top concerns include students using AI to cheat, replacing educators with AI, and data usage.
Tools like plagiarism checkers and blockchain-based certification systems can prevent cheating. There is a consensus that human teachers will always be irreplaceable for their roles in understanding nuanced subjects and fostering critical thinking.
Data security is another area that can also be aided by both blockchain and AI in combination. Blockchain is immutable and can be encrypted to make sure that the data cannot be tampered with or shared in an unauthorized way.
As AI becomes more prominent in education, a balanced approach that combines the strengths of AI and human abilities will yield the best outcomes.
How should data be secured with AI in higher education?
As institutions collect and analyze vast amounts of student data, safeguarding data privacy becomes paramount. Institutions must establish robust data protection measures and transparency in data usage. Students should have control over their data and be informed about how it’s utilized. As mentioned above this can be achieved with platforms that use blockchain.
What is the role of educators when using AI?
Educators play a crucial role in ensuring the ethical use of AI. They must have the training to understand what has been AI-generated and its implications. Institutions need to establish AI governance policies that prioritize ethical considerations and transparency.
AI can enhance the role of teachers in higher education by automating administrative tasks, providing personalized learning experiences, and assisting in grading and assessment. It allows educators to focus more on facilitating discussions, offering guidance, and addressing individual student needs.
What are the main challenges of AI in higher education?
While AI holds great promise for higher education, it’s not without its challenges and concerns.
- Implementation Costs: the initial costs of implementing AI systems in higher education can be significant. Institutions may need to invest in infrastructure, training, and ongoing maintenance. Smaller institutions may struggle to allocate resources for AI adoption.
- Resistance to Change: Educators and administrators may be hesitant to embrace AI, fearing job displacement or a lack of familiarity with new technologies.
- Technological Inequality: AI’s benefits must be accessible to all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background. The digital divide can exacerbate inequalities if some students lack access to the necessary technology or resources.
Artificial Intelligence is fundamentally transforming higher education. It’s enhancing the classroom experience, improving student support services, aiding research endeavors, and addressing traditional challenges. While there are ethical considerations and challenges to navigate, the promise of AI in higher education is immense.
It’s essential for institutions, educators, and policymakers to work collaboratively to make the most of AI in higher education while ensuring equitable access and responsible implementation. With careful planning and a commitment to ethical AI, we can create a future where higher education is more accessible, personalized, and effective than ever before.