Transforming Education with AI

In his latest blog Dax Scutt, Education Sales Manager at Phoenix, takes a look at Artificial Intelligence and how it can be used to power change.

“There is a lot of interest in Artificial Intelligence, or AI, but there are still a lot of unknowns as to what can be achieved and also what are the risks. Likewise, people are familiar with chat bots and assistants such as Alexa, Cortana and Google, but there is a fear that we unleash an army of cyborgs or HAL (if you are old enough for that reference). I therefore wanted to go over what I think is possible and where “Ey Aye” (I am from Yorkshire) can be used for positive results for all parties – the definitive win-win.In education there is a lot of focus on the student experience or the student journey. The students are the customers of the colleges or universities and therefore, rightly have an influence on what the institution is offering in terms of courses, accommodation, food, recreation, access and of course IT.

Colleges or universities have many departments to look after their customers and these departments have systems set out to log enquiries. Often these systems are siloed away from each other and there is no connection between them or the sharing of information. What this leads to is either the university being in the dark as to what information is where and what this looks like, or it spends a lot of time, effort and money having people try to collate this information into insightful reports for senior groups. There has to be a more productive way. This is just the student record data – there is also data being collected on where a student logs onto a desktop, logs onto the Wi-Fi, pays for food or drink, maybe logs attendance at a seminar or lecture, parks their car, uses the library, sports centre or other recreation areas. Data on the student, staff and any visitors can be collated and this is before we bring in facial recognition on CCTV – now it gets interesting.

How AI can come into play is by looking over and collating this data – quicker, more securely and simply – and then looking at historical information and new data as it becomes available. The data can then be analysed to show a whole array of areas. Student performance can be tracked, as can attendance, time onsite, where they go etc. not artificial intelligence – but it is a start. Using this information and building up this data, the software can then look at this behaviour and performance and start to make predictions or even interventions. If attendance has dropped, scoring has declined then the colleges or universities can make an intervention, enabling teachers to target students that may need assistance they did not previously know about. Again, not AI at its fullest.

Where I can see AI really assisting is with helping students – better planning of facilities, parking and timetabling. This can be done to improve the students time on campus. Using Wi-Fi data, a student can be tracked across campus to make sure it is efficient – i.e. not trekking from one side to the other unless necessary. Further to this, facial recognition can be used along with mood recognition so the software can tell if the student is showing signs of happiness, boredom, anger and more. AI can also track when a student is logging on and what they are looking up – is it work related, social or something more.

Mental illness affects a lot of people and students are affected as they move away from home, cope with the stresses of courses, exams, budgeting, living and so on. Can AI intervene if a student is looking up something worrying and offer a more pro-active response such as who to talk to? It doesn’t have to be just at this level – it could be the student looking up how to drop out, what other colleges or universities are offering, how to make a complaint, dealing with bullying or insults, or again something more serious such as discrimination. Can colleges or universities intervene here with AI with help or make a more productive offer? Student retention is high on the agenda for all institutions with only a small percentage change in student numbers each year making a significant difference to funding.

Artificial Intelligence – whether chat bots, digital assistants, translator tools, immersive reader, PowerPoint coach, facial/mood recognition or something else, is important and it would be beneficial to start the journey soon and begin looking at what you can do now and what could be done in the future. There are a lot of considerations such as the staff and the students, data, security and ethics but once in place the rewards could make a huge difference to students, staff and the institution.”

Let’s Talk AI

To discuss AI and how it could help your institution, talk to a member of the Phoenix Education Team on 01904 562200, email [email protected] or fill in the short form below: