How AI Can Address Critical Challenges Facing Higher Education


Artificial intelligence is increasingly being integrated into higher education to address challenges such as personalized learning and operational efficiency. AI-powered tools are streamlining administrative tasks like scheduling, registration and financial aid management, freeing up valuable staff time and reducing errors. AI-enhanced learning analytics provide more comprehensive data analysis, enabling professors to understand student behaviors and needs while identifying at-risk students early in their courses.

However, the integration of AI into higher education also raises concerns about its ethical use, including data privacy, security and the potential for bias in algorithms. While AI has the ability to enhance personalized learning experiences, there are concerns about the quality of education delivered through AI-driven platforms. Additionally, faculty members might encounter a learning curve as they integrate AI into their instructional approaches, while the fear of increased plagiarism by students is a valid concern.

Recently, EdSurge spoke with Bruce Dahlgren about the power of AI in higher education. Dahlgren’s experience in the technology sector spans four decades, with the first half of his career in large public IT companies and the latter half in private, software and SaaS-oriented firms. He brings a passion for higher education, evidenced by his service on a university board in Florida. Combining his love for IT with his dedication to advancing higher education, Dahlgren now serves as the CEO of Anthology, a leading global provider of edtech ecosystems for universities. In this role, Dahlgren aims to leverage the company’s talent and technology to support higher education institutions effectively.

EdSurge: What critical challenges is the higher education industry currently facing?

Dahlgren: Higher education is at a significant crossroads. There are active debates about the value of the traditional college experience, and I understand that perspective. Rising tuition costs, concerns about employability and alternative credentialing options have fueled this conversation. Students are increasingly questioning the necessity and return on investment (ROI) of a four-year degree.

Students who choose that route expect greater flexibility, personalization and real-world relevance in their education. To meet these expectations, institutions will need to invest in both technology and innovative teaching methods that meet students’ valid expectations.

Add the financial pressure caused by falling enrollment, reduced state funding and heightened competition for limited resources, and institutions are facing a real inflection point. These challenges have forced them to reassess how they deliver education and find innovative ways to remain viable and relevant. To secure their future, they will likely need to embrace some bold initiatives.

How do you believe artificial intelligence can play a role in addressing those challenges?

This is the really exciting part. AI is going to transform every aspect of higher education and the student journey. How students engage with their professors, the methods used to evaluate learning and retention and course curriculum design will all be influenced by the opportunities and challenges posed by AI. There has been a progression from data processing to networking to workflow automation to data warehousing. AI is a natural evolution of all these digital changes.

I’ve been in the tech industry for a long time, and every time there is an advancement in technology, there are fears about the risks. Right now, there are worries about generative AI. Could it create an opportunity for cheating, plagiarism and hallucinations? And universities are feeling the stress.

But this is an exciting time. AI is pervasive in everything we do. The ability to use this data, the skillset and its impact on our lives — it all must be a part of higher ed.

The answer is integrating the responsible use of AI, which is why Anthology came out with the AI Policy Framework. It is like setting up guardrails. We want to help institutions embrace AI in an ethical and responsible structure. We want universities to see Anthology as a partner in this exciting journey.

Source: Anthology

Which do you perceive are the most effective applications of artificial intelligence in higher education?

I look at leveraging AI in three primary ways. The first is using AI to help a professor simplify or improve the rudimentary aspects of their job so they have more time with students. Every board meeting I attend, faculty ask for more time with students. Anthology created this AI-powered course-building tool that helps educators develop courses faster, thus embracing AI as a productivity tool to improve efficiencies and spend more time engaging learners.

Second, AI can help universities analyze and effectively use disparate data from across the institution to improve the learner experience and outcomes. We can leverage the data and lower the barriers to using it by tapping AI through natural language queries. Imagine how access to that data can paint a more complete picture of a learner and their journey and help with the operational aspects of the university, such as simplifying the transfer of students and improving marketing and donor connections.

Third, the use of AI can be incorporated into university courses themselves. Most university students have only known the digital world. They want to learn about AI and look to their courses to show them how to leverage AI in their future profession. Professors are trusted advisors and will be counted on to demonstrate the opportunities and risks associated with using AI. AI is shifting the mindset of education. We are rethinking how to test students. It’s not just about students remembering or retaining facts anymore but how they interpret, communicate and use those facts; this is the current reality. Students need to learn AI as a skill set, and universities have the role of building future leaders.

As the industry leader, Anthology must meet universities wherever they are in the process of integrating AI and help them leverage this technology to improve their systems, operations and livelihoods. Where do we start? We work closely with faculty. If faculty can embrace AI as a productivity benefit, they can more readily present it as a future advantage for students as they enter the workforce. This is an exciting time; we need to keep an open mind about AI and stay current with the technology while still being responsible.


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