Artificial Intelligence on Campus: How it Improves the College Experience
5 Min Read
Written by: Parcel Pending
Artificial intelligence (AI) can seem intimidating but happens to be very common in new technology and is increasingly included in conversations about digital transformation in higher education. There are many useful and discrete ways that AI is used by colleges and universities across the country to boost operational efficiency in higher education and enrich student experiences on campus.
Though many of us may not be aware of it, artificial intelligence is already on campus, working behind the scenes. It helps to deliver a wide range of on- and off-campus services and programs. AI technology examples include online services that communicate with incoming students and security technology for students, staff, and faculty safety.
AI technology is also shifting the focus to outside-the-classroom education and becoming an integral part of academic life. Artificial intelligence not only helps tailor the college experience to the needs of individual students but it also supports college administrators in channeling innovation and delivering the services that students and faculty now expect from a modern academic institution.
Communicating with the student population
For many, the first AI example that comes to mind is autonomous vehicles, like Tesla’s Autopilot. But AI programming is more accessible and widely available in everyday life than many might think. In fact, you may have already been exposed to one common AI example: chatbot technology. As such, it should come as no surprise that higher education institutions are looking to AI chatbots to change the way they communicate with students.
Here’s an example of an AI model aiding a higher education institution: Georgia State University employed a data-driven AI chatbot called ‘Pounce’ that helped guide incoming students through the enrollment process. Prior to Pounce, students would often get discouraged by paperwork and placement exams. Instead of going through the necessary steps to register, they would decide not to pay their deposits and drop out before the beginning of classes in the fall.
The Pounce 24/7 smart text messaging system developed with AdmitHub, used chatbot technology and natural language processing to answer more than 200,000 queries from incoming students in a single summer, reducing the ‘summer melt’ drop-out rate by over 22 percent.1
At Georgia Tech, students in a Master’s level artificial intelligence class were unaware that one of their text-based teaching assistants, Jill Watson (named after the IBM Watson computer), was actually an AI system. Built using conversational AI technology and driven by a sophisticated machine learning algorithm, ‘Jill’ answered over 10,000 messages a semester on an online message board. ‘She’ lightened the load for the eight human teaching assistants in the team and helped them focus their attention on motivating and guiding students through coursework.2
Developing new ways to teach and learn
The role of digital transformation in education is growing, and AI capabilities and machine learning have an important role to play in generating new innovations in the way we teach and the way we learn. Leveraging technology to improve the learning experience transforms the college and university classroom.
In New York State, at the IBM Research and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, researchers have been working on an immersive, artificial intelligence-based, virtual reality (VR) platform to help students learn Mandarin.3 The technology places learners in a virtual restaurant in China, where they have to order their meals and communicate with restaurant staff in Mandarin through an AI chat agent.
Using artificial intelligence to tailor instruction to meet student needs is an obvious path to follow, and AI systems have been crucial in helping educators and administrators connect with students during the dramatic changes that COVID-19 imposed on university life. Recent statistics show a 19 percent increase in the overall use of artificial intelligence-based learning technologies since the start of the pandemic – a strategy that helped encourage virtual classroom interactions during the height of the outbreak.4
Improving life on campus
Most AI-powered software used by colleges and universities remains confined to behind-the-scenes operations or passive tasks such as monitoring HVAC systems to improve air quality.5 But as the presence of AI technology grows, so does the concern around AI ethics.
That is why successful AI deployments are so important in helping convince academic staff and stakeholders of the benefits of artificial intelligence and limit anxiety that many have of job losses and the fear of being replaced or monitored by machines. The ultimate goal of any AI project should be to aid in streamlining school operations, freeing up time for employees to engage in more value-driven tasks. It is important to ensure that campus administrators, faculty, and other key stakeholders agree on the goals and problems they are trying to solve before deploying an AI solution. And when artificial intelligence systems are in place, it is crucial that students and faculty have access to the support they need for these solutions to be successful; these solutions should also be compatible with existing college campus amenities to aid students, staff, and faculty in their everyday life. And, above all else, it is important is to remind staff and faculty that no AI tool could ever replicate their human intelligence, only aid it.
Elevating the campus experience with connected technologies
As colleges and universities integrate new technology, providing choices to students seeking additional support or new learning strategies, harnessing the full power of AI technology becomes a key differentiator in attracting new students in the battle for student enrollment.
Educational institutions can use AI technology and internet of things (IoT) systems to encourage a self-service integrated model for campus deliveries and services, like enrollment documents or IT rentals, with Parcel Pending by Quadient’s Campus Hub™.
Campus Hub is a simple and smart distribution method that uses electronic lockers to send and receive various items or goods. By employing integrated asset tracking software (such as Quadient’s WTS), Campus Hub provides a comprehensive way of following the trajectory of an item from the sender to the receiver. Parcel Pending’s Campus Hub can help create a new revenue-generating module for college campuses and universities while offering an innovative and cost-effective distribution solution for campus mail services and other departments on campus.
- Neelakantan, Shailaja. Successful AI Examples in Higher Education That Can Inspire Our Future. EdTech, January 2, 2020, https://edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2020/01/successful-ai-examples-higher-education-can-inspire-our-future
- IBM Research Editorial. “Mandarin Language Learner Get a Boost From AI.” IBM.com, August 23, 2018. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2018/08/mandarin-language-ai/
- McKinsey and Company. “How technology is shaping learning in higher education.” mckinsey.com, June 15, 2022. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/education/our-insights/how-technology-is-shaping-learning-in-higher-education
- Newton, Derek. From admissions to teaching to grading, AI is infiltrating higher education. The Hechinger Report, April 26, 2021, https://hechingerreport.org/from-admissions-to-teaching-to-grading-ai-is-infiltrating-higher-education/