Nov 28 2018

Q&A: Tom Livne on how AI-Enabled Tools Can Help Boost Accessibility on Campus

Artificial intelligence integrations may help open academic opportunities for all students on campus.

According to Tom Livne, CEO of AI transcription tool Verbit, smart assistants and artificial intelligence-enabled tools on campus are trends on the horizon that universities will want to pay attention to in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Higher education institutions have been witnesses to a digital revolution, phasing out tools of the past for technology integrations that have improved their offerings for students and faculty on campus

The rate at which technological innovations are moving is rapid, and university administrators need to keep pace in order to guarantee their students the best experience and compete with the latest higher education alternatives. 

Through new smart applications, campuses will be able to offer greater accessibility of content to their students and expand their academic offerings on campus.

EdTech spoke with Livne to look deeper into how AI solutions will adapt and be integrated onto college campuses in 2019.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out how universities are using AI on campus.

EDTECH: You note that artificial intelligence transcription services will be a large part of 2019. What do you see as a major benefit of that AI integration on campus?

LIVNE: Artificial intelligence will really help make campuses more accessible to students. What we are seeing is a clear concern over growing issues in accessibility on campuses for students with learning or physical disorders. 

Photo: Courtesy of LinkedIn
Tom Livne, CEO of Verbit.

Now, many universities and community college are adopting new solutions to make sure they comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. 

Because of this increase in awareness and the need to ensure equal opportunities to students with disabilities, universities are investing a lot of time and money into making all the academic content they have available, both in real time and offline.

With this technology, if I am a deaf student, for example, and I want to come to class and enjoy the same content as the students who do not have a hearing disability, AI-enabled tools like Verbit allow for advance transcription services to offer that content in real time.

EDTECH: What ways has AI changed during 2018 that will make this technology a key focus for 2019?

LIVNE: In terms of speech recognition, this is something that has existed for more than 25, 30 years. However it was not available to everyone. 

Over the past two or three years, because of innovations in cloud computing and the ability to process so much data, there have been new breakthroughs in deep learning and machine learning, allowing speech recognition to be a more ubiquitous tool. 

Now, most people can access some kind of speech recognition software in a matter of clicks.

It is important to keep in mind, though, that while these technology solutions have advanced, we have found that the best results have come from a human-robot partnership

For example, most speech recognition software that solely relies on artificial intelligence is able to reach around 80 percent accuracy. However, when we combine AI and humans, we find that the percentage of accuracy jumps into the 90s.

MORE FROM EDTECH: See how higher education administrators are using AI to create personalized academic video tools.

EDTECH: What are some of the difficulties universities might face in adopting AI services, and how do they overcome them?

LIVNE: I would say the two main challenges are ensuring the quality of the data being input into the tool and how to store and process data to offer frictionless access and easily integrate the solutions into the larger network. 

In the case of transcription, the data being input for analysis is the audio, and no amount of AI will be able to transcribe poorly recorded audio. So, investing in proper audio and video recording tools are essential. 

This also means offering teaching services and tutorials to users to ensure they understand the correct processes in order to make sure they are using these solutions properly to get the most out of them. 

EDTECH: While the benefits that offerings like AI-enabled transcription provide for disabled students are clear, how can universities open these tools to the wider campus population to get the most impact from their investment?

LIVNE: Well, in the case of transcription, these tools can be a great help for students who may need to miss a class or are unable to be physically present. 

For example, let’s say you are a distance learner: Would you prefer to have to listen to an entire lecture, or be able to read the important details? 

I would say it is much faster and easier to have the text in front of you, especially if the copy is digital, enabling easier search tools to find key pieces of information. By using reliable, AI-enabled tools, distance students are able to have a new level of flexibility in their learning. 

From research, we have found that student engagement increased noticeably when AI transcription services were used in the classroom, regardless of whether students were disabled or not.

Overall, AI tools are about improving functions by accumulating data and customizing the experience. When utilized correctly, this can significantly change the way students engage with academic content for the better.

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