AI is in the news. Products are springing up every day and vendors are filling up our inboxes and phones. The academic side is affected, too. MIT announced a $1 billion plan to create a new college for AI. Everyone seems to be using AI. Feel behind? Don’t. AI is a journey, not a destination, and it's closer than you think.
Until recently, most edtech news has focused on the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom. While there is great potential in this, the focus of this post is AI from an administrative perspective. AI in higher ed means more time on high-value work – using your brain, not your fingers – to better recruit students, help students succeed, and build loyalty among alumni and friends.
In fact, Salesforce.org dedicated an entire week to AI for Good for Higher Education. For more info, click here. Keep reading to learn more about how to use AI within your institution.
Your Journey to AI Has Already Started
Since the foundational requirement to use AI is data, administrative offices have an advantage over most companies, in general. Schools already store huge amounts of constituent data, albeit the data is siloed and often spread across systems. Schools with a data warehouse that stores more than just Student Information System (SIS) data are in an even better position.
Those that do not can use their constituent relationship management system (CRM) to aggregate this data – sometimes even more easily than using the data warehouse – and have a ready-made system to put that data to work.
Transform Student Success with Artificial Intelligence, a recent session at Dreamforce (the Salesforce user conference that attracts 170,000 registrants), features the stages that CRM data follows for use in AI:
Stage 0: Anecdotal: HIPPO (the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion)
Stage 1: CRM Data Foundation (360-degree view)
Stage 2: Measurement & Analytics (data-driven decisions)
Stage 3: Insight (business intelligence)
Stage 4: Process Automation (efficiency and automation)
Stage 5: Data Science (predictive models, interventions, etc.)
Stage 6: Machine Learning (next-best, recommendations,)
Stage 7: AI approaching human intelligence (still science fiction)
Use Data for AI: Capture, Learn, Act
Storing data is just the first part. The way the data is captured – lead sources could include system of record data and data from lists, forms, advising sessions, service requests, events, etc. – is business intelligence that can be used with AI.
It’s the business intelligence – the learning from data – that is key. What the data tells you can inform what you’re able to do with AI.
Technology Makes It Possible, But …
The biggest challenge, as with any technology implementation, is the culture change. Administrative staff who are accustomed to siloed data, fearful of job loss, and mindful of convoluted processes and exceptions will need a foundational understanding of, consistent communication about and evidence of success with AI.
Get Started with AI
While resources on AI abound, it can be overwhelming to understand its practical implementation and use. As is so often true, it's easiest to take a "crawl-walk-run" approach.
As mentioned above, during AI for Good Week for Higher Education, industry experts shared their insights on AI, how it can transform the student experience, and most importantly, how you can get started with AI at your institution. In case you missed it, here are the top 5 higher ed takeaways from AI for Good Week.
You can also access all the virtual event recordings, resources, and exclusive content from the week here.
Importantly, technology keeps getting easier to implement. That means the schools with a head start on data can shorten the time it takes to implement AI. Bottom line, AI is good news for administrative units. It means fewer boring chores for staff and a better experience for students, alumni, and friends.