a photo of North Carolina's Wake Tech campus

3 takeaways from North Carolina Community College System’s AI projects


A higher-ed CIO offers useful takeaways based on his first batch of AI projects

Takeaway 2: Determine a clear end goal.

While it’s crucial to build confidence with early success, achieving buy-in and the necessary budget and institutional support means outlining a clear objective (or objectives). From a leadership perspective, we all want to be prepared to innovate and have our institutions transform to meet the needs of students. That’s the top-level piece we all have in common.

But that common-currency rhetoric needs to be furthered based on the needs, plans, and discrete missions of your institution. What does success look like? Our goal is to tie this to economic development and job placement. That’s why the system was created, and why we need to use AI to more effectively educate students and enhance their experience. As a driver of economic development in North Carolina, we are looking for measurable outcomes and for dramatic improvements in how we measure those outcomes. The more we can show our value to the North Carolina General Assembly and the taxpayers, the better as we accelerate innovation.

Takeaway 3: Keep the data in-house.

To make machine learning valuable, you need to have it learn from the organization’s knowledge. And we decided that our brain must remain under the control of our system inside our firewall.

This approach of having AI under our control—all the way to the source-code level—is one that other institutions need to understand the importance of. There are a lot of AI companies out there looking to break into the higher-ed space and when they offer free services in exchange for giving them your data, that’s a bad bargain. We’re doing it the right way in North Carolina.

Related: How AI will shape the university of the future

Machine learning is powerful, intimate, and requires full transparency and full control. We’ve partnered with Tanjo, a company in our backyard out of the Research Triangle, that is ensuring we have that control. Their expertise dates back to 2009, and they’ve been ideal technical partners and act as force-multipliers for us on this massive undertaking.

I’m relatively new to higher ed and the community college system. I’ve had the pleasure and honor of learning and hearing the stories of students, faculty, and staff. Coming from a military background, I see learning from a different angle. Our vision is that AI projects will augment human engagement and the crucial relationships between students, advisors, and faculty.

eSchool Media Contributors