How Artificial Intelligence helps Higher Education Management

27, Jan, 2017

Isabel Sagenmüller
BY: Isabel Sagenmüller

Along with Machine learning and Big Data, Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for a while. It is shaping businesses and productive industries, but it has only begun to grasp its applications in education, both in classroom and in campus management.

We give you some trends for Artificial Intelligence that will revolutionize managing resources for educational institutions.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Marie desJardins, member of the Association for Computing Machinery, tells University Business that “AI in general is the field of trying to design computers, software and hardware that can perform tasks we think only people can do.”

“Machines examine vast data fields much faster than humans, then present information for people to interpret. Studying patterns can help educators ask better questions about students’ needs and more accurately tailor learning plans.”

The Stanford University made the report “One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence (AI100)”, and predicts that, over the next 15, “the use of intelligent tutors and other AI technologies to assist teachers in the classroom and in the home is likely to expand significantly." However, they point out that "computer-based learning systems are not likely to fully replace human teaching in schools.”

However, there is a lot written about the role of Artificial Intelligence in the classroom, personalizing education with sophisticated technology, and blending online learning with customized applications, but what about education management?  

Will these apply to academic planning? Let’s see:

1. Improved Student Experience and Services

According to University Business, AI can help beyond the classroom and into the higher education management field, supporting collaboration. The software has expanded to administrators and educators, and Artificial Intelligence is expanding, for instance, into student services.  

The Stanford University report shows that there are projects that seek to “model common student misconceptions, predict which students are at risk of failure, and provide real-time student feedback that is tightly integrated with learning outcomes.”

Rose Luckin, chair of learning with digital technologies at the UCL Institute of Education gives Times Higher Education examples of how the Artificial Intelligence can help in the student experience.

She quotes the case of the University of Derby, where they introduced a student monitoring system “that uses data to predict which students might be at risk of dropping out, allowing the university to intervene before it happens.”

The team then examines factors such as how often students access mentoring and counseling services and their interaction with student societies. “By using these 'engagement analytics' they can assess whether a particular student appears to be struggling.”

2. Student Learning Analytics

Barbara Kurshan, Forbes contributor, says “that artificial intelligence could play a role in the growing field of learning analytics, evaluating the quality of curricular materials, and in adaptive learning and recommendation engines.”

“Our world as we know it is running on artificial intelligence. Siri manages our calendars. Facebook suggests our friends. Computers trade our stocks. We have cars that park themselves, and air traffic control is almost fully automated. Virtually every field has benefited from advances in artificial intelligence, from the military to medicine to manufacturing.”

One of the areas she underlines is the bringing together "the vast amounts of data about individual learning, social contexts, learning contexts and personal interests.”

Rose Luckin says that “there has been an enormous rise in the amount of educational data about students that are available to universities”. She mentions how universities are grasping data patterns about student activity, “that are routinely recorded and analyzed by universities”.

“At the moment, these analytics are mainly used to predict which students might be about to fail or drop out, but the potential for AI-informed learning analytics to analyses the learning processes of an individual student and to provide timely interventions in real time to support that student are enormous.”

The Stanford University report says that data sets collected from massive scale online learning systems “have fueled the rapid growth of the field of learning analytics. Online courses are not only good for widespread delivery, but are natural vehicles for data collection and experimental instrumentation that will contribute to scientific findings and improving the quality of learning at scale.”

In fact, according to Chris Parr, another contributor to Times Higher Education, “Universities mine institutional data in search of gold,” as the analysis of information on staff and students can help to improve recruitment and retention.

He claims that universities ”risk losing their competitive edge” if they do not make better use of the information they are collecting from students and lecturers.

 3. Management and organization

Accenture researchers Vegard Kolbjørnsrud, Richard Amico and Robert J. Thomas tell the Harvard Business Review how AI will redefine management, after surveying 1,770 managers in charge of digital transformation.

In a nutshell, “artificial intelligence will soon be able to do the administrative tasks that consume much of managers’ time faster, better, and at a lower cost.”

Tracking schedules and resources may soon fall within the jurisdiction of machines, but drafting strategy remains unmistakably human. Simply put, our recommendation is to adopt AI in order to automate administration and to augment but not replace human judgment.”


Delegating administrative coordination and control.

This takes over half of managers’ time, and Artificial Intelligence will automate many of these tasks.

Supporting complex decisions.

Machine learning technologies literally allow machines to learn, thus they will support rather than replace managers.

Getting a second opinion.

It may sound farfetched, but in the future, managers will engage in informed conversations and debates with their computers. The HBR experts say that intelligent machines can assist “in decision support and data-driven simulations as well as search and discovery activities.”

Help design new solutions.

The use of artificial intelligence can both reduce the paperwork deflecting creative thinking and expand the scope of options managers may have in developing education programs or course mixes, as manager-designers “embed design thinking into the practices of their teams and organizations.”

Task assignment.

The Stanford University report goes beyond the applications of artificial intelligence in the classroom. It also underlines the use of data science, to create predictive models to prioritize public policies and undertaking complex task assignment, scheduling and planning techniques.

 Academic Planning - A simulation game
  • In what area of higher education management do you expect Artificial Intelligence to help?
About the author

Isabel has more than 10 years of experience developing, leading and executing Marketing and Communication strategies at international level (EMEA, US and LATAM). She has worked for B2B organizations in different sectors such as nutrition, logistics and education. She is bilingual in German and Spanish and fluent in English and French.

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