By Shantanu Rooj
Artificial Intelligence is gradually gaining acceptance from colleges and universities as an effective tool to automate a variety of tasks; be it the use of chatbots for answering student queries, or the AI driven messaging system that reminds students of overdue assignments and deadlines; be it a prompt for paying their fees on time or for doing a plagiarism check on their submissions, AI is finding its place in the corridors of higher education. Higher education is now advancing from its initial foray into digitalization – from just automating routine tasks to handling more complex projects, to do stuff that help them grow and compete. Higher education is gradually moving to operate like an open economy – hordes of suppliers, plethora of service seekers – where only the best wins! It would be important for colleges and universities to market their products and services well and target the candidate early on! Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies can help colleges improve their student enrolments by five different ways!
Predicting student applications; There is an increasing realization amongst universities that they would benefit from an ability to predict with accuracy the number of applications that they must accept to hit prime enrolment numbers; over enrolment can stretch their resources too thin (number of faculty, lecture rooms, hostel facilities etc) and can negatively impact student experience while under enrolment can lead to reduced tuition revenue and an inefficient use of expended resources. ML tools can look at individual applicants based on identified metrics like high school grades, test scores, socio-economic backgrounds etc, examine trends based on previous year data and predict their probability of accepting admission. Additionally, ML models can predict with higher accuracy over archaic calculative models, which students will most likely succeed in a course.
Helping students identify the right courses; Students can find it challenging to navigate the catalog of courses to find the right fit for their skills and experience. Without consultation and assistance, the process can be challenging and result in disillusionment and lower enrolment rates. Meanwhile, providing personalized counseling to thousands of users requires human resources that would go beyond the institute’s capacity and budget. AI powered chatbots can provide guidance and quick responses to questions thus helping students make the right choices. NLP based chatbots that enables the platform to analyze and respond to the meaning behind human-generated text, enable their users to interact with them in a comfortable, conversational fashion. This provides students with an experience similar to what they would get from talking to a counsellor instead of manually finding their way around the courses.
Assisting students in completing their enrolment process; The process of applying to college involves several tasks like completing the detailed application form, submitting the high school mark transcripts, applying for scholarships, looking for student loans and finally paying the tuition fees. The process can be daunting for students who come from low-income backgrounds. Some universities provide counsellor outreach services, but that becomes an expensive proposition as the number of students rise. Some universities like the Georgia State University in the US have experimented with AI assisted conversational bots that use deep learning algorithms to help applicants complete their admission process with ease.
Identifying fraud in admissions applications; Universities have been deploying large teams to scan applications and verify the credentials of the students and this can be an expensive task for universities receiving large number of applications. AI driven platforms can help identify applications with fraudulent data and narrow the list for the university counselors to act upon. AI tool like neural networks that are made up of artificial neurons and mimic the human brain are very simple and un- sophisticated systems but are capable of accomplishing incredibly complex tasks when combined into a connected network.
Document recognition, validation, and approval; Several AI bots are being able to recognize and read the documents uploaded by the students along with their applications, verify them for their genuineness and provide approval for processing them to the next stage. This has cut down the counselor time by about 15% and helped universities better target genuine applicants while improving their bottom lines.
Arthur Clarke made an interesting quip, ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology in indistinguishable from magic’. The potential of using AI and ML in higher education in immense – they can help universities improve their enrolments, reduce administrative costs, solve some persistent challenges, personalize learning and provide individualized guidance to students. Universities must raise their game and leverage the technology to improve student outcomes.
The author of this article is founder, CEO, TeamLease EdTech. Views expressed are personal.