Lately, no conference or industry talk in the education sector is immune from discussions about the impact of AI (Artificial Intelligence). Everywhere we look, innovative companies are using technology to make manual and ineffective processes easier – and yet for education, most of this discussion focuses on preparing students for a workplace where machines will do their jobs.
Of course, there’s another application of this next tech frontier – university admissions teams can use its potential to improve efficiency, compliance and accuracy.
When the subject of AI came up again at a dinner StudyLink hosted before the AIEC conference in Hobart last year, it was clear our clients are excited (and a little impatient) for the arrival of AI. They are ready for the benefits of further automating many tedious processes, and feel that any technology innovations designed to enhance the student experience should be encouraged – and fast-tracked.
A 2017 Navitas Venture survey confirms this sentiment. Students, edtech founders and university leaders all agreed that of the many technologies emerging, AI would have the most significant impact on higher education. The same survey found that 72% of university leaders said digitising marketing and admissions would be very important as a means to drive recruitment growth.
Dispelling the myths of AI
Automation may be the beginning of the AI solution, but true AI is a very different beast. To understand the difference, it’s useful to drill it down into three parts:
1. Artificial intelligence refers to the concept of technology designed to mimic human thinking – including the ability to learn and make decisions.
2. Machine learning is the way AI is currently being applied. Giving computers the ability to use data to make decisions without necessarily being pre-programmed.
3. Automation is software pre-programmed by humans to make repetitive, monotonous tasks easier. It relies entirely on its human-configured rules and cannot make other decisions.
The best emerging AI technologies across all sectors use both automation and machine learning to make life easier. Chatbots are one obvious example – helping us make complex product decisions such as insurance or mobile phone plan purchases for example. But we’re also seeing AI at work in the legal sector, with automatic document verification becoming more common.
In education, we’re beginning to see chatbots used to guide prospective students through the process of deciding what and where to study, as well as through other important and difficult steps in the process – like applying for a visa. At StudyLink, we’re working hard to make the most of both automation and machine learning as it evolves, and very soon our StudyLink Connect customers will be able to set rules to prioritise and rank applications depending on criteria such as English score, source country, and academic profile.
In the future, AI will enable the StudyLink platform to verify student identities, automate offers and make decisions on both credit recognition and the equivalency of international degrees – all of which are currently time-consuming manual steps in the admissions pipeline.
What good AI looks like today
That all sounds great. But is it really within the reach of most institutions? If retro-fitting emerging technologies into your current admissions process seems like an impossible, daunting task, it might be worth looking at some simple options that could plug straight in.
Here are some current features our customers have told us they appreciate most about the StudyLink Connect platform:
– Built-in automation that can be customised to your unique workflows
– Standardised processes and assessment criteria across multiple platforms
– A simple dashboard that displays all of your application data in one place
– Transparent access to reporting and analytics, and
– The ability to take advantage of more advanced machine learning technology as it evolves.
These are all tangible steps towards automation – and once these streamlined processes are in place, you’ll be ready to make the most of AI applications as they emerge.
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