Artificial Intelligence and Higher education
“The country that controls artificial intelligence will control the world.”
Hardly a day goes by without some reference to the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence in our lives. I believe that universities both in the United States and around the world will also experience significant change brought about through AI.
This is the first of two articles examining the promises and potential pitfalls of AI on higher education. The first article will define AI and give examples of how AI can impact college and university administrative processes. The second article will examine some of the pitfalls of AI. Both articles will focus on AI as it relates to administrative processes, especially in recruitment and retention, and not teaching and learning.
AI was founded as an academic discipline in 1956. It is defined as the development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally done by humans. AI uses algorithms that can predict everything from picking stocks to diagnosing diseases. Higher education administrative processes will not be immune from the impact that AI can have on how students are recruited, admitted, enrolled and graduated.
Alana Dunagan, a higher education researcher at the Clayton Cristensen Institute, envisions AI as a powerful tool fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in colleges and universities.
According to the report, Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector, AI will grow by 57.5 percent from 2017 to 2021. Several technological and educational powerhouses including Google, IBM, Pearsons, Content Technologies and Carnegie Learning are committing substantial resources and personnel to develop digital platforms that use AI to provide testing and feedback for students from pre-K to college and university.
How will AI influence national and international recruitment, admission, retention, and graduation? The examples are many; too many to list in one article. but let’s focus on a few.
AI has the potential to change how colleges and universities recruit domestic and international students by creating algorithms that can predict the applicants most likely to be accepted and enroll, from which states and countries, and the enrolled students most likely to progress and graduate and become engaged alumni.
AI has the potential to customize and personalize the admission process, speed up administrative processes for domestic and international students, including admission decisions, visa processing, student housing selection and course registration. AI also holds out the promise of assisting retention and student success deans by identifying students who are most likely to struggle academically in the first semester and year. Early warning signs and red flags will allow progression and retention plans to anticipate, rather than react, to students’ difficulties.
The implications for a school’s financial bottom line are obvious. Also obvious is the anticipated fear that AI may replace recruitment, admission and retention. staff.
AI may also assist college admission deans with dealing with the phenomena of the “summer melt,” a term used to describe the group of students who although they have paid a deposit in May to secure a place in the incoming class, do not actually enroll in September. The financial impact of this cohort of accepted students who do not become enrolled students has caused havoc for many colleges and universities, especially several tuition dependent, private schools. AI by providing personalized and frequent text messaging and communication, can identify accepted applicants who may fall into the “summer melt” category and allow staff to create intervention strategies. Again, the implications for a school’s financial bottom line by enrolling some percentage of this cohort, is obvious.
AI also has the potential to create rapid interventions for students suffering from home sickness or social isolation and thereby becoming an important tool for student engagement.
Identifying and targeting applicants and students who are the best fit for a school and then personalizing the experience from the time of inquiry, to application, to acceptance, to enrollment, to progression, to graduation, and to alumni engagement, will increase not only the bottom line but also increase the reputational value of the school.
In the next article I will examine some of the potential pitfalls of AI on higher education.