As deep technology, or deep tech, continues to be developed, it is having a bigger and bigger impact on higher education. Some universities, like Stanford University, are whole-heartedly accepting the changes that deep tech brings. The Stanford Graduate School of Business has developed a virtual reality (VR) classroom, complete with an avatar lecturing on stage. Stanford has paired with the company Virbela to create a virtual campus where students can virtually interact and learn. This allows for more successful remote learning, as students feel they are more immersed in a classroom setting than over a zoom video.
Other universities are using AI to make teaching an easier process. The AI programs can help detect plagiarism from students, as well as help proctor online exams, deterring any type of cheating. AI chatbots have also been used to help college admissions teams, as they can answer simple questions pertaining to enrollment and classes. AI has even been used to help teach a class. At Georgia Tech, a master’s level class on AI technology utilized IBM’S Watson program as a virtual teaching assistant. Named Jill Watson, the AI helped guide students and answer questions. In fact, most students didn’t realize the teaching assistant wasn’t a person until the end of the class. The class showed the power and potential of AI being present in higher education.
While AI can be beneficial for higher education, it also comes with a few drawbacks. AI can be extremely costly for a university to have. Even for just one class, having AI software can make the class more expensive. Using an AI can also be challenging for older faculty, who may not be used to this type of technology. Others worry that AI could put some faculty out of a job. Already there have been some downward trends for college professors. One of the biggest is in the number of tenure positions. The number of tenure track positions significantly decreased from 45% to 30% from 1975-2015. While this large timeline coincides with the rise of the internet and other technology, AI could be playing a role in shifting how college professors may be viewed in the future.
AI also shows problems with biased algorithms. Because AI learns using previous data sets, its methods may be unconsciously biased against certain groups of students. This can lead to serious problems if the AI is helping to teach a class or grading papers. Others are hoping to expand who learns and uses AI to overcome issues of bias. MIT started the RAISE program, which stands for Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education, to deal with this problem. This program helps to support students of more diverse backgrounds to learn AI. This not only helps the students but can also more positively impact AI to where it is more inclusive.
While AI has some challenges to overcome, it can also give incoming and graduating students better benefits. AI has been shown to help reduce the college dropout rate and can help make college less challenging and more personal for students. With AI chatbots and teaching assistants to help answer questions, students won’t feel as stressed on as lost in the higher education system.
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