In the past decade, higher education has experienced a major shift toward digital experiences. This change reflects the way in which the rising generation prefers to engage with each other and with their instructors—as well as how they desire to learn. It’s an evolution that is echoed at campuses across the nation.

This means that the way faculty and staff interact with students is fundamentally changing. Students expect to be able to connect with us anytime, from anywhere. This is particularly challenging for us at Indiana University (IU) because we are so geographically dispersed and touch an enormous diversity of individuals and groups, with a fall 2018 enrollment of more than 114,000 across eight campuses and multiple satellite locations. At IU, we have a compelling need to create new pathways to support our students and to give them digital options to engage with faculty, staff, and each other across disciplines and locations.

To address this challenge, we believe it’s important to leverage smart tools that not only tap into the expertise of our staff but also incorporate emerging capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

AI and machine learning to support human knowledge

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One partner that has helped us tackle this challenge is a company called InScribe. InScribe has developed a machine learning-supported Q&A platform that allows us to efficiently crowd source answers to common issues and high-priority questions. InScribe connects our learners and experts across the traditional boundaries of class, campus, and semester.

When individuals need help, they can turn to InScribe and immediately reach a community of experts including advisors, educators, and peers. Students can seek curated verbose answers that minimize reliance on 24/7 call centers, websites, emails, or face-to-face conversations.

As questions are answered, the system automatically categorizes and stores them so everyone benefits from the conversations that came before. This community of inquiry is enhanced by an AI system that helps prioritize the flow of new questions. Using sentiment analysis and natural language processing, InScribe can proactively alert us to high-priority issues and individuals that may need one-on-one intervention.

About the Author:

Matthew Gunkel is the director of teaching and learning technology at Indiana University.


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