Artificial intelligence is not just a sci-fi fantasy anymore. A.I. is here, it’s real, and it’s slowly but surely changing the world, including the college experience.
While many people are terrified of an A.I. robot takeover, the forecast for colleges is quite positive. Educators will soon find themselves teaching different, more adaptable skills to students. And A.I. technology will enhance – rather than replace – educators' work with students.
Already, colleges are beginning to use A.I. in learning environments of all kinds. There are tons of current examples of artificial intelligence in education, from AI. teaching assistants to chatbots.
Future college students will likely be interacting with more robots than they ever expected.
A.I. Will Streamline College Admissions
Evaluating students’ admissions applications is a “highly repeatable process,” Forbes reports. That makes it a great job for a robot rather than a human.
Artificial intelligence won’t be used to “count anybody out automatically." Rather, it will “help to enhance” the admissions staff’s ability to find the right matches, according to Kasey Urquidez, the University of Arizona’s Dean of Admissions. The shift is inevitable, too: Kasey says the addition of A.I. to the college admissions process is “definitely coming.”
A.I. Will Help Answer Student Questions
When a new batch of college freshmen is admitted, college staff are often deluged with questions about enrollment and financial aid. Answering common questions is where A.I. chatbots can help.
These chatbots work just like the customer service chatbots that are currently in use on other websites – they automatically answer user questions, 24 hours a day. One chatbot, in use at Georgia State University, answered 200,000 questions from students in its first summer alone.
As any teacher can attest, “students tend to ask the same questions again and again.” That makes this yet another great job for a robot.
Discussion Boards Will Have An A.I. Component
So far, these examples of artificial intelligence in education seem most useful for college staff, not students. But how can artificial intelligence actually help you with your studies?
Many college classes now include an online discussion board component, but they can be really unproductive – they’re hard to navigate, and it’s difficult to hold students accountable in them. One A.I. tool, Packback Questions, is designed to solve that problem. It automatically asks follow-up questions and coaches students to improve their responses.
You’ll Have Robot Teaching Assistants
Believe it or not, A.I.-powered teaching assistants are already a thing. Ashok Goel, a professor at Georgia State University, uses one in his classroom. Similarly to PackBack Questions and AdmitHub, these robot teaching assistants interact with students in online discussion forums, where they also answer certain student questions. Another A.I. tool at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute helps students practice speaking Chinese – instead of talking to a human language partner, they talk to a robot one.
A.I. will likely not, however, take over the other major job of a teaching assistant: grading papers. Educators say A.I. is useful for some types of tests, like those that require checking boxes. But it “still doesn’t work very well” for anything more in-depth than that.
Colleges Will Focus on Different Skills
In the future, it’ll be more and more important for workers to understand how to work alongside A.I. technology. They’ll also need to have useful skills that make them not replaceable by a robot.
To prepare students, colleges are offering more and more courses and degrees on artificial intelligence. Lifelong learning opportunities, too, are becoming more useful to workers than a single degree. Educators will likely continue to shift their focus to skills like teamwork and critical thinking, which remain useful even as the workforce changes.
A.I. Will Make Education More Accessible
In the bigger picture, artificial intelligence could literally transform the meaning of a college education. Sebastian Thrun, who helped create Google’s self-driving cars, also founded Udacity, an online learning platform that calls itself the “21st-century university.” Udacity has made huge waves in the education world by making it possible to educate thousands of people at once – at little or no cost to students.
Machine learning in education is a popular and rapidly changing field. If things continue at the current rate, students will only continue to see more examples of artificial intelligence in education over time.
- EdSurge: Can A.I. Help Students—and Colleges—Determine the Best Fit?
- Forbes: Artificial Intelligence: Hero Or Villain For Higher Education?
- New York Times: Colleges Grapple With Teaching the Technology and Ethics of A.I.
- Smithsonian Mag: How Artificial Intelligence Can Change Higher Education
- Inside Higher Ed: Pushing the Boundaries of Learning With A.I.
Kim Wong-Shing is a writer in New Orleans. She has a Bachelor's degree in Education from Brown University and a Master's degree in Education from Bank Street College. She worked as a teacher for four years before transitioning into full-time writing. Kim has also written for Lifehacker, LittleThings, HelloGiggles, and a variety of other outlets.