Imagining an AI-First Student Experience

This is the third installment in a larger series exploring the intersection of design and existing artificial intelligence technology through experiments, prototypes and concepts.

We’ve recently been exploring how artificial intelligence might better connect the dots in higher education. The short film below documents our design for an AI-first student experience that coordinates machine learning capabilities to deliver the right information at the right time — additional details about the exploration follow.

Fragmented Student Portals

Universities are massive institutions. In addition to academics, many offer a variety of services and resources to help students make the most of their education. But these are often a tangled maze and students are left on their own to navigate impersonal, overextended student portals. For many, the experience is fragmented at best and outright broken at worst — no one has the patience to wade through an endless sitemap to renew a library book.

So why isn’t there an alternative to the flat architecture of student portals? Where is the dynamic portal-killer that understands a student’s context and can deliver the right thing at the right time? A start-up called AdmitHub offers a glimpse of what it might look like: they’ve built an AI-powered chatbot that can guide students through a university’s existing FAQ or admissions resources. And it’s proving pretty effective: Georgia State used AdmitHub to significantly decrease summer melt (a phenomenon where up to 1 in 5 admitted students fail to enroll for their first semester) through proactive outreach.

How do you extend a model like AdmitHub’s across all a university’s offerings? Would a conversational interface be sufficient?

The promise of conversational interfaces seems clear: if we could just tell a computer what we’re trying to do the way we would tell a person, that would be much better than manually searching through an index of everything the computer can do. But when free-form text is your input, how do you know what you can and can’t do?

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