Using AI to Change the College Environment
By Aaron Rafferty, Co-Founder of Standard
Artificial intelligence (AI) has developed to such an extent that its potential applications are nearly boundless. While some have argued that AI is just a passing “fad” that will wear off once people tire of it, the significant implications it could have on revitalizing struggling industries prove that the technology is here to stay. In an industry like the college education system, AI could profoundly impact and shake up the institutional structure for the better.
Using AI in the classroom
One of the most common criticisms of the college system is that class sizes are too large, and as such, instructors cannot engage with their students on a one-on-one level. If a student does not comprehend the material from a lecture, they are on their own or must seek help from a study group, tutor, or during office hours. Implementing AI-powered educational tools for processes like review and assessment could allow for a more personalized form of instruction without burdening the professor.
Almost any college professor will tell you that their schedules are extraordinarily busy and that they are already pushed to their limits. Artificial intelligence has the potential to help alleviate some of the stress that educators face by allowing them to reduce their workload. Although there are not yet many AI technologies designed specifically for educational institutions at this point, several developments that have proven helpful in the corporate world could also benefit colleges and universities.
Using AI to reduce workload
Many professors could benefit from using AI in more menial tasks like scheduling, communications, and answering questions. For example, a professor could fine-tune an AI chatbot like ChatGPT to have full knowledge of their syllabus, textbook, course schedule, and lecture format and could field income questions from their students 24/7. Those questions can then be filtered as to whether they have a quick response that can be sent back immediately (e.g., “When are office hours?”) or need to be addressed by the professor.
Additionally, artificial intelligence programs — particularly in online classes — could be valuable in managing communications with students. Professors have better things to do with their time than sending emails reminding their students of upcoming deadlines. Effectively-implemented AI software can help manage these reminders so that professors don’t have to.
Professors could also use AI for grading assignments. This application isn’t much of a stretch from the current education system — Scantron grading is commonplace for multiple choice assessments and has been for years — but artificial intelligence has developed to a point where it could be used to grade more complex assignments such as essays.
AI as an HR tool for colleges and universities
However, it isn’t just in the classroom that the potential applications of AI are exciting; several applications of artificial intelligence in the organizational structure of colleges and universities have significant potential. For example, in much the same way that AI has the potential of improving student engagement, it could likewise improve engagement for university employees during the training process.
For example, an artificial intelligence program can analyze employee skills and areas for improvement during training, providing them with customized training plans and resources. AI can also help answer basic and even more advanced employee questions during onboarding and guide them through filling out the initial paperwork necessary when they join the institution.
AI-powered performance evaluations could also be helpful for instructors. While an artificial intelligence program should not entirely replace a performance evaluation conducted by a human supervisor — the element of empathy that is not present in AI is a necessary factor in the assessment of instruction. Still, artificial intelligence can collect and report on several key performance indicators, such as productivity and attendance, and provide near-instantaneous feedback on employees’ performance. That feedback can then be used to help them prepare for their human-conducted evaluations.
AI-powered gamification tools have proven successful in several industries and likely could have positive effects in an academic setting as well. Rewards programs that incentivize employees for their performance and engagement could have significant benefits for employee engagement. Educational institutions are always looking for initiatives to help their employees reach their personal and professional goals. Implementing AI-based rewards and wellness programs in the organization can encourage and reward employees for participating.
HR departments could implement artificial intelligence technology to help analyze data on employee engagement and determine which employees are at risk of leaving the university. With this information, proactive steps can be taken to help ensure employee retention and provide additional support when necessary. Given the vast nature of the staffing needs of a college or university, it can often be easy to lose track of employee satisfaction, but AI could be the key to restoring it.
From the classroom to managing employees, AI has the potential to revolutionize the higher education system. Colleges and universities implementing these technologies can set an exciting precedent for using artificial intelligence to help educators and students improve their experience inside and outside the classroom.
About the Author
Aaron Rafferty is a tech builder, co-founder, and behavioral scientist on a mission to create a more equitable and sustainable world. He’s the proud co-founder of Standard and BattlePACs, where they are leveraging engagement technologies to drive social impact and promote civil discourse.
With a background in science, research, and a passion for solving tough problems, Rafferty believes that tech, science, and business can unite to bring about positive societal change.