Thus, if AI is seen not as a way to replace the individual but as a way to make individuals and groups more effective, both the impact of AI and its acceptance will be greatly improved. Today, augmented reality has greater potential for changing how we do things in higher education. Interesting examples of this concept can be found in the business world, where AI is used to facilitate human fraud detectors for banks and human translators and editors in publishing.

How can this distinction yield applications within higher education?

While MOOCs have not yielded the disruptions that many expected, they have had a significant impact on the way we deliver course materials. Lectures on most introductory topics are readily available on the web and the push for flipped classrooms is ubiquitous. These applications facilitate what individual instructors do.

Where AI can make its mark
The real impact on learning can come through learning management systems (LMSs). We have known for quite a while that we can use technology to manage classroom participation. There is much research, including my own, that shows that anonymous input systems, when added to regular or online classrooms, increase the participation of individuals who would normally shy away from raising their hands or volunteering comments.

Applications are being developed to use AI to track student questions asked in a class and direct them to answers and to other students with the same questions. The Minerva Project is so convinced of the power of such technology that class discussions occur only online—despite students living together in the same building.

Is #AI a game-changer for #highered?

Furthermore, the massive amount of data generated by LMSs has the potential to increase the effectiveness of learning. Researchers at a school where I previously worked used data on students’ online participation to identify within the first two weeks of a class which students were likely to perform poorly. They were then able to change these students’ participation patterns and thus their outcomes.

Getting faculty buy in
The question, however, is whether such applications will be embraced by the faculty members who fear that change will result in their demise. And at their core, many faculty members believe that learning is a uniquely individual process. Until professors see AI as a means of enhancing their effectiveness, resistance will continue.

Disruptors are on the horizon. The entrance of Arizona State and Purdue into the online marketplace is significant. MBA programs are ripe for disruption; most business school deans expect the part-time MBA market to shift to online delivery in the next five years. These online platforms will accelerate the shift to AI-managed learning.

The future for AI within the university is bright. Applications will proliferate and finally disrupt the teaching paradigm. The danger is for institutions that come late to the party and not of their own accord.

About the Author:

Elmore Alexander, Ph.D., is dean of the Ricciardi College of Business and Professor of Management at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.


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