AI tools can help higher-ed institutions provide individualized support for student success, while also increasing efficiency.

Harnessing AI tools to enhance student success, career readiness

AI tools can help higher-ed institutions provide individualized support for student success, while also increasing efficiency

Key points:

AI’s near-infinite uses in education are still emerging, but higher-ed leaders are turning to the technology to buoy student success and ensure students complete their path to graduation–and graduate with the AI skills necessary to compete in an evolving workforce.

During a virtual roundtable moderated by Marie Rosecrans, SVP of Industries Marketing at Salesforce, leaders from Salesforce, Texas Tech, and the University of Nevada Las Vegas discussed the roadmap for AI in education. They offered practical tips for how institutions can harness AI responsibly and effectively inside the classroom–and beyond–to improve staff and student experiences, as well as learning outcomes like career readiness, graduation rates, and more.

With the number of AI tools multiplying each day, where do institutions start?

“A good starting place is to demystify it,” said Mitzi Lauderdale, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Student Success at Texas Tech. “Facilitate a campus conversation. When you think about the different vantage points across campus, you need to challenge everyone to think about AI through their lens. We put together a group just to talk about AI in the classroom–that’s one small place to start. [We’ve talked about] integrity, testing and assessing, and is there cheating involved–instead of that, let’s look at the discipline of teaching and pedagogy in the classroom and spend time where we need to spend time: with the human connection. It’s really a campus conversation.”

“Start with low stakes, high impact. Create the environment where this is not something we’re fearing, but embracing,” said Kivanc Oner, CIO at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “We accept that we are not going to have all the resources, so we need to find and create efficiencies, be able to scale our services–our students are expecting us to deliver services as they’re used to. We are using a lot of integrated systems and data to build something that can be personalized for students. We’re excited to use generative AI to provide personalized content. This whole connected experience is something we’re striving for. We have to embrace and create systems and technologies to support this mindset of really meeting students where they are and creating personalized, actionable, and timely content for each and every one of them. We foresee that AI will be part of everything.”

AI tools also can help potential employers discern the skills and competencies students have developed as they’ve worked to complete their degrees.

“Students go through the process of getting degrees, but they also want to gain skills, and the skills they gain aren’t necessarily reflected in their transcripts,” said Bala Subramanian, VP and GM of Education at Salesforce. “We’re looking at the capability to tie in skills information to course information, so that as they complete their courses, you can also measure the trajectory of skills they’re gaining. This has great benefit in terms of employability and career readiness.”

Using AI requires careful attention to data policies and personal information. Despite overall enthusiasm for AI’s potential in higher ed, it can be challenging to establish AI policies and guidelines for responsible AI use and data protection.

“Lots of guidelines focus on students, but staff policies have been overlooked, and those are equally critical,” Subramanian said. “Staff, in many cases, may have access to personally identifiable information of students. Students plagiarizing is a risk to themselves, but staff using unsanctioned AI tools brings risk to the institution.”

“It’s important that we know what people are doing with our data,” said Lauderdale. “We’ve talked about how we’re using predictive analytics, but [we] understand the flip side of how it could be weaponized. And that it’s important that they understand that as they’re sharing their info, that it’s being used in a trustful manner. This generation of students cares more about confidentiality and privacy than any other generation I’ve worked with.”

Along with the roundtable discussion, Salesforce announced new AI-powered student success tools for Education Cloud, including Intelligent Degree Planning and Skills Generator, that will make it easier for institutions to help students map out personalized paths to graduation, translate coursework into resume-worthy experience, and engage in mentorship programs. 

Salesforce also announced Data Cloud for Education and Einstein Copilot Recruitment & Admissions Actions, which will help institutions automate common tasks and improve recruitment, enrollment, and student support.  

“Education workers have the highest burnout rate of any industry, and students are feeling the effects–just 11 percent of college students believe they are prepared to join the workforce,” according to Salesforce. “As education barrels toward an enrollment cliff, confidence in the value of a college degree continues to wane, and educators leave their professions in high numbers, schools must find ways to help reduce staff workload and improve student experiences and outcomes.”

The new AI capabilities for Education Cloud, built on Salesforce’s Einstein 1 Platform, are designed to help higher-ed and K-12 institutions unlock their data to power AI solutions that improve staff efficiency, as well as student experiences and learning outcomes. 

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Laura Ascione

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