The Role of AI and Balancing Personal Connections with Technological Advancements

September 20, 2023
The Role of AI and Balancing Personal Connections with Technological Advancements

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly prominent role in higher education. Among its many applications, AI-powered technologies like chatbots are revolutionizing student services by providing personalized support and streamlining administrative processes. However, it is essential to strike a balance between leveraging new technologies and maintaining the personal connection between students and institutions. 

In this article, Van interviews Anthony Humphreys, a higher ed tech veteran and current President of BlackBeltHelp, the leader in artificial intelligence and predictive analytics-powered solutions for higher education customer service and student success. The conversation sheds light on the transformative impact of AI on student experiences. Beyond chatbots, Humphreys explores diverse applications of AI and shares strategies for maintaining a personalized approach as it relates to student services amidst technological advancements.

AI and Student Support: The Rise of Chatbots

AI-driven chatbots have quickly emerged as valuable tools for enhancing student support in higher education. These intelligent virtual assistants can engage in real-time conversations with students, addressing their queries, providing information, and guiding them through various processes. By leveraging natural language processing and machine learning algorithms, chatbots offer personalized assistance, enabling students to access the support they need, whenever they need it.

According to Humphreys, "Chatbots are transforming the way students interact with institutions. Beyond the FAQ Chatbot, we are now seeing integrated bots that tap into systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Student Information Systems (SIS). They offer instant support and guidance, empowering students to navigate through complex processes efficiently. From understanding how much you owe on a student loan, to if a FAFSA application has been received, or what grades are. By harnessing AI technology, we can enhance the student experience and ensure that their needs are met promptly."

Beyond Chatbots: Expanding AI Applications in Higher Education

While chatbots are a popular application of AI in student services, there are several other ways AI is making a significant impact:

Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning powered by AI has immense potential in higher education student services. AI algorithms can analyze student data and provide personalized experiences, tailoring content to individual needs. "Personalized AI interactions are essential for maintaining connection with students,” Humphreys explains. This approach fosters student engagement, enhances comprehension, and promotes academic success, something that Humphreys explains can be especially hard for larger four-year institutions to accomplish due to large enrollment size. 

Adaptive learning can help bridge the gap between students and institutions, providing students with the personalized attention they need to succeed. AI can also help institutions create more efficient, personalized experiences for their students, augment human staff, and lead to better student retention and improved outcomes.

Predictive Analytics

By analyzing vast amounts of student data, AI can identify patterns and predict students' needs and behaviors. This allows institutions to proactively intervene and provide targeted support, such as identifying at-risk students who may require additional assistance.

As an example, Humphreys shares that institutions can use predictive analytics to help students as they are nearing their graduation date. Students will receive escalating messages that say, reminding them of the date. After that, as the date approaches messages reminding students of what they are missing will be sent. Messages will make it easy for the students, with links on how to pay fees, finish work, all with the click of a button so there are no surprises come graduation day.

Humphreys emphasizes the value of predictive analytics, stating, "Predictive analytics is a game-changer in student services. By leveraging AI algorithms, institutions can identify students who may be at risk and provide timely interventions. This is just one example of how a proactive approach ensures that students receive the support they need to succeed."

Balancing Personal Connection and Technological Advancements

The key to using AI effectively is to balance leveraging its benefits with nurturing a personal connection with students. Humphreys presents a range of strategies that higher education institutions must carefully consider in order to achieve this harmony.

Humanizing AI Interactions

Designing AI interfaces to simulate human-like interactions can create a sense of empathy and personal connection. Incorporating natural language processing capabilities and personalized responses helps students feel heard and understood.

According to Humphreys, "Humanizing AI interactions is essential for maintaining a personal connection with students. By incorporating conversational AI and empathetic responses, institutions can ensure that students feel supported and valued throughout their interactions with AI systems."

Seamless Integration of AI and Human Support

Combining AI-powered solutions with human support systems ensures a holistic approach. Institutions can employ a blended model, where AI handles routine inquiries, freeing up human staff to focus on complex issues and providing personalized guidance.

Humphreys emphasizes the importance of seamless integration, stating, "While AI can efficiently handle routine tasks, human support remains irreplaceable. By integrating AI and human support, institutions can strike a balance between efficiency and personalized attention. This combination ensures that students receive the best of both worlds."

Ethical Use of Data

One of the main points institutions are discussing is respecting student privacy and maintaining ethical data practices with the use of AI. Establishing robust data protection protocols, securing student information, and providing transparent communication about data usage are some of the best practices to follow.

Humphreys highlights the significance of ethical data usage, stating, "Protecting student privacy and maintaining ethical data practices should be at the forefront of AI implementation. Institutions must prioritize data security and establish clear guidelines for data usage. By fostering trust, institutions can create a safe and secure environment for students to engage with AI technologies."

Continuous Improvement and Feedback

Regularly gathering student feedback on AI systems and services helps identify areas for improvement. Incorporating student input and making iterative enhancements to AI technologies enable institutions to align their offerings with student expectations.

According to Humphreys, "Feedback from students is invaluable in improving AI systems. By actively seeking student input and implementing their suggestions, institutions can ensure that AI technologies continuously evolve to meet the changing needs and preferences of students."

Strengthening Student Services and Achieving Student-Centric Excellence

AI technologies will continue to enable institutions to provide personalized support, enhance student experiences, and streamline administrative processes. However, it is crucial to strike a balance between leveraging new technologies and maintaining a personal connection with students.

Humphreys emphasizes the significance of this balance, stating, "AI is a powerful tool that enhances student services, but it should never replace the personal connection. By humanizing AI interactions, integrating AI with human support, practicing ethical data usage, and continuously improving based on student feedback, institutions can ensure that technological advancements enhance, rather than replace, the personal touch in student services."

AI is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping student services within higher education in the coming months and years. Institutions that embrace the technology and champion a student-centric approach that combines the power of AI with the human element will be well positioned to thrive in the digital age of education. By setting the foundation today it will benefit both educators and students alike in adapting to an increasingly AI-driven landscape.

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Written by
Anthony R. Humphreys
Anthony R. Humphreys

Anthony has served higher education in diverse, leadership roles for over 30 years and has helped organizations thrive through his expertise in developing, analyzing, and executing growth strategies. Prior to joining BlackBeltHelp, he served in College Administration as well as in leadership roles within Blackboard Student Services and Ellucian, Inc.

Anthony now brings his higher education experience and passion for innovative student service delivery to BlackBeltHelp. He leads BlackBeltHelp as the President and ensures its alignment with higher education market needs.

Van Goodwin
Van Goodwin

Van Goodwin is the founder and Managing Director of Van Allen Strategies. He has worked with technology and process for the last two decades in private industry, higher education, non-profit, and government sectors. He is passionate about using technology effectively and appropriately to improve organizations and lives. Van also dabbles in research and publishing, and has authored book chapters and articles on Agile management, business process, and telecommunications technologies. He conducted some of the earliest ever academic research on the effectiveness of virtual, internationally dispersed teams.

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