Technology in Education

AI in College: How are Universities Using It?

While headlines might suggest otherwise, AI in education isn't about robots replacing tutors or professors. From intelligent tutoring systems to personalized learning platforms, AI is (not so) quietly making waves on college campuses. But is it a disruptive force or a valuable ally for student success?

AI in college

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The “Cheating Bot” Dilemma and University Bans

The buzz surrounding AI in education is undeniable, but so are the concerns of its potential misuse. Headlines about students leveraging ChatGPT to churn out essays and AI-powered plagiarism soaring ring loud. Universities, understandably, are taking action. 

Shortly after its launch in November of 2023, school districts across the country began to ban the use of platforms like ChatGPT and OpenAI by students. Universities warned students that using these tools for assignments would be considered plagiarism and cheating. But the concern extends beyond academic integrity:

“While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success,” Jenna Lyle, spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education.

From implementing sophisticated plagiarism detectors like Turnitin to outright banning AI applications like ChatGPT and even grammar checkers, the message is clear: academic integrity is paramount.

These concerns are valid. Plagiarism erodes trust and undermines the very foundation of learning. However, dismissing AI based solely on misuse paints an incomplete picture. It's crucial to remember that technology, like any tool, is only as good as the user's intentions. Just as a hammer can build or demolish, AI can empower genuine learning or facilitate academic dishonesty.

The key lies in responsible implementation. Universities must establish clear guidelines outlining acceptable and unacceptable uses of AI, similar to existing policies for internet resources. 

Beyond guidelines and gray areas of student use, the question is raised: Should universities themselves be embracing AI? 


The Positive Potential of AI

While concerns over AI misuse deserve attention, we shouldn't overlook its immense potential to transform education for the better.

1. Early Intervention for At-risk Students

Proactive intervention is crucial for student success. AI can analyze student performance data to identify students at risk of falling behind, allowing professors to intervene early and offer targeted support. Imagine an AI system that flags students struggling with a specific concept in a math course, prompting a tutor to provide personalized coaching or additional resources. This early intervention can prevent academic problems from snowballing and improve graduation rates.

2. Personalized Learning

Forget the "one-size-fits-all" approach. Once your AI-powered platform analyzes student data like grades, attendance, and engagement and identifies an at-risk student, that’s where personalized learning comes into play. Academic data, paired with information on student learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses, can help tutors tailor educational content and pace to a student’s individual needs. 

Imagine a platform that gives teachers and tutors the tools to determine if a student needs help in a specific science focus or writing-based assignments as a whole. Tutors can use this information to adjust not only what they teach but how. This personalized approach can significantly improve engagement, retention, and, ultimately, learning outcomes.

Personalized learning can even go beyond tutoring. With AI, students can receive answers to their questions, obtain custom lesson and study plans, tailored quizzes to test their knowledge, and essay writing support. Whether you’re looking for hands-on human support or asynchronous study materials, AI can support it.

3. 24/7 Access to Support

Traditional tutoring has its limitations. Tutors aren't always available, and students sometimes hesitate to seek help. AI-enabled tutors bridge this gap by offering constant support. Imagine a student stuck on a coding concept at 2 am. With an AI tutor, students can get immediate guidance, clarify doubts, and practice their skills, anytime, anywhere. This readily available support can be a game-changer for busy students or those needing extra help outside regular tutoring hours. After all, while many college students tend to lean towards a nocturnal sleeping schedule, their tutors and advisors may not.

4. Scalable Support

Universities face the challenge of supporting diverse student populations with limited resources. AI can efficiently address this by scaling support without compromising individual attention. Imagine an AI system that automatically provides personalized feedback on writing assignments for hundreds of students, freeing up tutors’ time for deeper, individual mentoring. This allows educators to focus on areas where human interaction is most valuable while ensuring all students receive the support they need.

5. Administrative Efficiency

Let's face it: educators often get bogged down by administrative tasks, taking away valuable time for teaching and interacting with students. AI can streamline these tasks, freeing up time for educators to focus on what they do best. Imagine an AI system that automatically grades quizzes, provides students with personalized feedback, and generates reports for faculty, saving educators countless hours. This efficiency boost allows educators to dedicate more time to activities that directly impact student learning.


University Use Cases of AI and QuadC

Let’s look at a few ways some universities have already begun embracing this digital shift:

Georgia State University is using AI to get data on 53,000 students to identify students in need of tutoring and supply that support. In 2020, the university saw a demand for tutoring in only a few days, which they typically saw over an entire semester. QuadC helped the school connect tutors with students, scaling support while meeting student needs. 

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) is leveraging these technologies to streamline its tutoring processes, enabling students to connect with tutors online in a variety of subjects. In addition to scheduling appointments, tutors can set office hours, identify inefficiencies in their teaching, and personalize student support. 

An often time-consuming area of teaching is assessing student work and providing feedback. OhioLINK, a collaborative effort between two and four-year institutions that aims to support undergraduate students, is embracing the possibilities of AI-enabled learning to address this challenge. With QuadC, OhioLINK is able to support real-time assignment tracking and reviews, ensuring tutors can support students at scale while students get the assistance they need.

These schools are only the tip of the iceberg. By embarrassing the potential of AI, universities and colleges across the world can leverage new and innovative ways to guide students to academic success

The bottom line is that while AI may be getting a bad rap, it shouldn’t be. With AI-enabled student success systems, AI is designed to be an aid to both students and universities. Think of AI as a digital toolkit rather than a homework-completing robot; these tools won’t replace tutors or education institutions, but support them in supporting students.



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