Jun 27 2018

Educators Tailor Services to Individual Students with AI

Education technology experts have speculated on the uses of artificial intelligence in analyzing big data to measure university outcomes, but recent software innovations have shown AI can be helpful on a smaller scale as well.

The growing market in AI has encouraged an explosion of personal applications to help university students receive the help and guidance they need, which can be difficult to get when a professor is speaking to lecture halls filled with hundreds of students.

While AI is already being utilized by universities for quantitative analysis, using machine learning to analyze qualitative data is a growing interest among higher education experts. 

“Popular digital assistants perform queries, similar to a search engine,” Conrad Tucker, director of the Design Analysis Technology Advancement Lab at Penn State tells University Business. What we need is an interactive dialogue system that learns the needs of a student and remembers prior interactions.” 

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Automated Tutors Adapt to Students' Weaknesses

No matter how proficient a student may be, everyone has academic strengths and weaknesses. In the fast-paced learning environment of higher education, there is not much time to repeat instruction for the students who need some extra help to absorb the material.

New AI-based individualized learning tools are a solution, allowing students to get help specifically tailored to their strengths and weaknesses outside of class in order to remain up to speed, the Tech Advocate reports.

These intelligent tutoring systems use algorithms like Bayesian Knowledge Tracing to monitor and adapt to the student’s knowledge and adjust to produce mastery in a subject. Programs like ALEKS analyze students’ responses to questions and create a specific learning plan designed to target their weaknesses and reinforce their strengths, according to the website.

At Clemson University, the pass rate in a math course jumped from 45 to 70 percent after introducing the AI software, according to a case study conducted by ALEKS

By integrating the AI program, students were able to see their progress and adjust independently, leaving more time for the professors to worry about what goes on in the classroom.

“ALEKS allows you to focus on instruction and meeting the individual needs of your students while allowing the burden of assessment to fall on ALEKS,” said Eliza Gallagher, a Clemson math assistant professor.

AI Partners the Right School with the Right Student

While intelligent tutoring systems are helping students answer difficult questions in class, other AI programs are helping institutions answer one of the hardest questions: whom should we accept?

By using passive data collection and survey questions, AI programs can give insight into the college application process to match students with the best university for them, and vice versa, Curtis Patrick, a senior architect at Ellucian tells EdSurge.

For example, AI programs exist that can pinpoint keywords in applicants’ essays to help “enhance” the selection process, Kasey Urquidez, dean of undergraduate admissions at the University of Arizona tells EdSurge.

Urquidez added that her institution does not currently use the technology with its admissions selections. But for Urquidez and her colleagues, the applications of the technology are clear and implementation is not far off.

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