Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Universities A match waiting to be made
Artificial Intelligence has been the subject of the fantasies of utopians and dystopians alike. For long it has been a topic that has surfaced regularly in pop culture and literature in different lights.
However, AI is no longer something that is limited to our books and movies. Over the years there is massive research that has been put into Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, making these tools massively capable of doing human tasks and that too with much more efficiency.
AI has made its way to our daily lives and it is playing a huge part in shaping our day to day lives.
Let’s take the example of social media.
When you are surfing on social media platforms like Instagram, some posts appear at the top of your feed even if they have not been made recently. This happens because the social media platform tracks your activity on the app with AI and shows you content which is similar to the content you regularly interact with. Now you know why Instagram keeps suggesting those cute dog videos to you!
Using AI to track your activity on social media platforms is an excellent way to enhance the user experience and make sure that users use the platform for a longer time.
Another way in which Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have made their way to our lives is smart personal assistants, better known as smart home assistants. Google Home and Amazon Alexa are the biggest examples of such devices.
Smart home assistants and smart speakers have gained popularity in the past few years. This graph here shows how many voice assistants were installed in 2019:
Another new technology that has made its way to our homes is the Internet of Things (IoT). It is a system of interrelated machines and devices with Unique Identifiers (UIDs) which can communicate with each other without the need for human interference.
There are various smart devices like a smart umbrella which tracks the weather, a smart wardrobe which tracks weather and gives you suitable clothing options, a smart mirror in which you can catch up on the news while brushing your teeth. These devices share information with each other and ensure that you have a good experience.
Surely, these technologies have made lives easy for us and will continue to do so.
But, can we use these technologies to elevate the functioning of our universities?
Students and teachers have been contemplating for long on ways to improve the functioning of universities and educational institutions. Our educational institutes have consistently lacked in keeping up with technology. Let’s have a look at how AI and IoT are going to make a difference in our universities.
The AI in the education market is supposed to reach USD 2 billion by 2023 growing at 38% CAGR in the forecast period 2018-2023 (Source: Market Research Future).
There are many ways in which AI is being used in universities for varied reasons, right from conducting exams to smart campus assistants. Let’s see how we can use AI to elevate the functioning of universities.
AI can be used to conduct exams
Examinations are an indifferentiable part of education, and they are important milestones in a student’s educational journey.
Exams require a lot of planning, right from setting question papers, printing question paper and answer sheets, distributing these question papers across all examination centres, evaluating answer sheets and then finally process the results of the exam.
This whole process often takes months on end, it is labour intensive and costly. By the time one examination cycle is finished, it is the time to start planning for the next examination. This whole process takes up a lot of time of teachers and burdens them with more work.
Often this burden of planning and executing examinations hinders the teachers’ capability of paying full attention to their course and students.
AI-powered online assessment tools are now being used by many universities to conduct online exams. These systems set the question papers themselves, from a pre-existing question bank. Such question banks are designed by subject matter experts and they can be updated and edited as per the need and convenience of the institute.
All that teachers need to do for an online examination system is to design an online question bank, and moderate the question paper generated by the system. After this is done, all tasks right up to calculating the result will be done by the online examination system.
Since the exam is online, there is no need to print and distribute question papers and answer sheets.
Another advantage of using these online assessment tools is that they use technologies like voice recognition and facial recognition, in a feature called remote proctoring, to track the student’s activity and detect any malpractices, which human invigilators might miss out on.
Thus online examination systems save teachers a lot of time, which they can dedicate to students and it reduces the burden of administrative tasks on them.
AI can be used to streamline the admission process
In recent years Online Admission Systems have gained popularity far and wide. These tools club all processes of admissions, right from registering for the entrance exam, accepting fee payments, publishing results and confirm admissions on one umbrella platform.
This will help save a lot of time of students, who may have to travel to other cities to register for the entrance exam and later to confirm their admission. With Online Admission Systems, students can go through the entire admission process in a hassle-free manner from the comfort of their homes.
AI can be used in these systems to streamline the admission process and make accurate forecasts about important matters like student enrollment. If universities have an idea about student enrollment, it will help them answer serious issues like under-enrollment and over-enrollment.
AI can be useful for data analytics in terms of admission process where large number of applicants have applied for particular course. Data Analysis can help to take certain key and strategic decisions related to admission process.
Chatbot for Admission Query Resolution
AI driven Chatbots can be useful to simplify student query resolution during admission process. Chatbots are 24X7 helping agent programmed to answer frequently asked questions of the student
AI can give feedback's to teachers
In the classroom, there are many students who have different learning styles. All students might not respond in a similar manner to one particular teaching method. A method which works with one student might not necessarily work with a different student. Teachers need to understand how students respond to different techniques and which technique or method is more effective in helping students understand different concepts.
Let’s also consider a different scenario. One technique which might be useful in teaching one concept, might not necessarily work for another. Thus it becomes quite difficult for teachers to come up with the perfect way to teach students.
AI can help teachers solve this problem by providing feedback.
AI can monitor the batch’s performance in a quiz or test and give detailed analytics to the batch’s performance for various subjects and topics. With the help of this feedback, teachers know exactly how students respond to a particular technique.
Over time, with sufficient feedback provided by AI, teachers can come with a perfect strategy to teach students. An added advantage of this feedback system is that teachers know which students are lagging, and they can personally work with these students to help them understand concepts.
AI can be a Personal Teaching Assistant
We have started using AI-powered personal assistants on a daily basis and for personal tasks like making a reservation at a restaurant, booking flight tickets, ordering something with a mere voice command, making an appointment with your dentist and so on.
As we have discussed before, social media apps and websites use AI algorithms to track your activity and understand your preferences and areas of interest to curate a personalised feed for you and give you a better experience. You can notice this in the typical ‘for you’ section on many websites and platforms you frequently visit.
So, we have entered an era where everything can be personalised to suit our tastes and interests. This is changing how we viewed machines and technology, a series of rigid codes capable of doing only one task.
This principle of personalising technology can be used in education as well!
AI can understand and adapt to a student’s learning abilities and it can come up with personalized teaching techniques to help students understand concepts more easily. AI can also help students understand the practical implementation of theory, and go beyond rote learning.
Personalized AI assistants can be used to address the shortage of teachers in the education sector. These tools find the best ways to teach students by studying their behaviour and response to different techniques and help students learn at their own pace.
An added advantage of such tools is that they can be used for students with special needs. AI can come up with the right methods of imparting education, unique and best suited to the child. This can greatly contribute to the development of the child.
Virtual Reality to enhance learning
Another technology that is revolutionising the way students learn is Virtual Reality. This technology can be used to a great extent to enhance the practical learning experience of students.
Virtual Reality can be used to take students on a virtual field trip. Not only will this technology save time and money, but also promote practical learning and give students hands-on experience.
This technology can especially be used by students pursuing online, distance education courses and help improve learning outcomes. Such programs are already adopted by the Stanford School of Business and University of British Columbia Law School.
Smart Campus Assistant
The Internet of Things can possibly change universities into smarter work environments and smarter places to learn. At its centre, the innovation is basic, it’s all about interfacing gadgets over the internet and letting them converse with us, as well as with each other.
Smart classrooms will likewise upgrade the learning experience of the students. A classroom equipped with the Internet of Things can adjust to the customized settings to set up the room for various faculty members. Monitoring participation and attendance of students and invigilating tests will likewise be computerized and made significantly more powerful.
This improvement in technology will empower smart campuses to adopt advanced frameworks to automatically monitor and control every facility. Universities will have the option to screen parking spots, building alarms, room utilization, heating and lighting all effectively.
Artificial Intelligence is a technology most of us thought was limited to fiction and pop culture. But here we are, today AI plays a huge part in our daily lives. It is being used in agriculture for predicting the weather and monitoring farms. AI is also being used to predict if a person will have breast cancer in the next five years from a mammograph.
With such varied applications and versatility of AI, it can definitely play a huge role in the education sector. It has already started making its mark with various uses like Smart Campus Assistants, Virtual Reality in Classrooms, Personal Teaching Assistants, AI-powered Online Assessment Tools and so on.
As Artificial Intelligence more advanced, new realms of the collaboration of education with AI will open up and surprise us.
About the Author
Swapnil has more than 15 years of experience in the Information Technology sector. He has been working on digital platforms in the education sector. Swapnil is an avid reader and writes articles on technology and leading developments in the education and IT sectors. Swapnil has active podcast about Education Technology which has various discussions about trends in education technology adoption.
Swapnil is the founder of Splashgain, an Education Technology company from India working on various innovative EdTech platforms for examinations, proctoring solutions, digital admission process and more.