In late 2015, Georgia State came to us with a major challenge. They were grappling with runaway summer melt that had increased from 12% to nearly 19% in a few short years. They knew that text messaging was the best way to engage the current generation of students, but they didn’t know how to manage personalized conversations with every admitted student with their existing staff on a reasonable budget. Here's what happened...
Applying to college, and then deciding which college to attend, can be a tumultuous and stressful time for high school students. Research has proven that texting students throughout this process can increase student success, and is a relatively inexpensive and effective way for educational institutions to guide students along their journey. AdmitHub uses artificial intelligence to provide instant support to hundreds of thousands of students. Most recently, I was managing conversations by text messaging with 30,000 prospective students about their college plans. I learned a great deal while having back-and-forth conversations with so many students in such a short period of time, and wanted to share some of the lessons I learned.
If you’ve ever heard the term artificial intelligence (AI for short), then you’ve likely had one of these three reactions:
- Fear: The spectrum of fear ranges from SciFi dystopian terror that Hal or Skynet or the Matrix will take over to general unease that a robot might “take” your job away.
- Optimism: Again this is a spectrum that ranges from eager anticipation of self-driving cars or an operating system that can be more than a friend to the ho-hum convenience that Amazon or Netflix recommendations provide us on a regular basis.
- Confusion: This is the most common reaction to the term AI, which is misused by most and misunderstood by even more.
First, let’s clarify what we mean by artificial intelligence:
- Narrow AI: This is the technology of today that can beat the best humans in games like Chess or Go. The technology of “Deep Learning” is extraordinary in its ability in a single narrow domain. All you need is a lot of data and a lot of computer processing power. This is the AI of today that can play games, diagnose some diseases, and even drive a car... but each of those programs is bespoke and unable to do anything other than what it was trained to do.
- General AI: This is the technology of the future (at least 30 years from now) that can learn just like a human and is capable of both conversation and even abstract thought.
“Would a student prefer to talk to a chatbot over a human?” This is a question that comes up when speaking with higher education leaders. For decades, college and university administrators have engaged with students in traditional ways - phone calls, emails, in-person school visits, campus tours, interviews, etc.