My Predictions for AI-Powered Higher Education

Kiran Kodithala
8 min readJan 2, 2024

The year 2023 has seen a rapid transformation of many technologies. However, every technology, smart device, and internet application is bound to change significantly because of the accelerating impact of Artificial Intelligence. ChatGPT has brought the technology to everyone with the power of simplicity and is providing users access to the most accurate information (and intelligence) possible. The ability of AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, Gemini, and others to organize unbelievable amounts of information and respond to questions through simple human communication is a significant milestone. It will likely be incorporated into every application, technology, and probably all organizations for the foreseeable future. Any organization that does not start looking into improving its core operations through the power of AI risks becoming irrelevant in the next decade. This brings us to higher education –

Over the last 25 years, I have served over 100 educational institutions in different capacities. Over the years, I have played multiple roles with reputable educational institutions like the University of Illinois, the University of Notre Dame, Wake Forest University, Northeastern University, and many other leading institutions. I have served the role of supporting the administration and support of student services like course registration, bill payment, course management, graduation, and other critical student operations by designing, implementing, and deploying student information systems, API Integrations, and enabling SaaS partners looking to leverage N2N’s plug-and-play integrations with illuminate. Though I worked in the Information Technology area — I had the opportunity to interact with students, faculty, advisors, registrars, bursars, and other stakeholders over the course of my experience. My thoughts on the current state of higher education and how AI can shape the future for transformation of higher education are based on these observations, communications, and body of experience serving these reputable institutions.

I agree with the broad position that higher education is one of the most important aspects of human civilization. Education and the pursuit of learning have shaped our scientists, philosophers, poets, entrepreneurs, politicians, and leaders of the free world. Higher education is critical for the success of every individual in every nation, but it has become less accessible and more expensive over the years. While innovations like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have shown promise of making higher education more accessible, the core student experience continues to be bogged down by siloed information systems, paper-driven processes, arcane policies and procedures, and bureaucratic inefficiencies between different departments.

I firmly believe that AI has the potential to transform higher education from the ground up. However, we need to think beyond chatbots for AI to truly transform higher education. We need to think outside the box, not just to transform higher education but to expand the capabilities of AI itself. I touched upon this during my closing keynote speech to announce LightLeap at Luminate ’23, N2N’s annual conference, held inside a retired 747 at Delta Flight Museum on December 15th, 2023. In preparation for this announcement, I had the opportunity to discuss this in more detail with CIOs, CTOs, University leaders, and students over the last few months. These discussions inspired me to write down my thoughts on how AI will change the core operations of higher education in the year 2024 and beyond.

Predictions

Prediction 1 — The AI Search Bar will replace Campus Websites

Let’s face it — prospective students, current students, employees, and other administrators have to click through link after link just to access some relevant information for most campus websites. Most constituents would prefer to get to this page by performing a search on their popular search engine or asking an AI chatbot like ChatGPT instead of navigating campus websites.

I strongly believe that most campuses will start redesigning their campus websites with a simple AI-driven search bar to provide meaningful, relevant, and accurate information to all parties and move the website to a back closet (and use this for source content for the AI tools to parse and present information).

Prediction 2 — AI chatbots will enable Student Services:

Though students are very tech-savvy and have the power of smartphones, the internet, and social media at their disposal, they still often have to stand in line at different student services and administrative departments to get their specific queries answered. Most administrative departments, such as Registrar’s offices, Financial Aid, and more, still interact with students through manual, form-driven operations where the staff member needs to access the student information by accessing the administrative system to provide personalized information for that student, often with multiple tabs open.

A secure AI chatbot with access to the student information system can help alleviate this problem. A secure AI chatbot can be configured to access public information as well as protected student information to provide data-driven answers to questions through an API platform.

A secure AI platform powered by student data is designed to serve students very effectively. Once an institution securely connects its student data with a secure AI platfor, the platform can answer questions like the following with no human interaction –

  1. What’s my student balance, and when is it due?
  2. Is my financial aid approved?
  3. When can I register for courses?
  4. How can I graduate in 2024?

Secure data-powered AI systems answer these questions by securely accessing the student information and presenting data that are pertinent to the student based on their specific data.

Prediction 3 — AI will make Self-Service Portals obsolete:

The campus websites can be cumbersome, but at least they are mostly designed with end-users in mind. Most self-service portals are designed using legacy technologies, and they are based on data architecture principles of the early web application era. This structure and design make it difficult for institutions to design better self-service applications, as vendors often own these portals and related applications. The course Registration System is still typically quite arcane. Search for courses multiple times and browse many course requirements to determine which courses can help them meet their academic goals.

A secure, private AI platform that securely connects campus student data with a course catalog can solve the problem of finding the right coursework for students. N2N is currently in the process of integrating this recommendation engine with Actionable APIs so that students can register for courses by simply interacting with the AI interface. The same action-response approach applies to any information that requires student interaction. Some examples of our AI-driven actions are below.

  1. Please recommend the courses I need to register for the upcoming semester.
  2. Can you tell me how much I owe for tuition?
  3. Can you sign me up for graduation?

Prediction 4 — AI will help make student success possible.

Over the last decade, institutions have collectively spent billions of dollars on Early Alert, Student advising, faculty training, and many other areas specifically to support student retention and enable students to progress academically. However — most of these investments have had mixed results because of the siloed infrastructure, fragmented student data, and complex analytics due to these legacy information systems. Regardless of the cause — first-year retention rates continue to be in the low 40% for many institutions, and graduation rates continue to be in the low 35% on average across the nation. Unfortunately, student success continues to elude campus administrators, faculty, and advisors.

Imagine a connected and secure AI platform that predicts possible student risks by evaluating data from housing systems, parking systems, cafeterias, learning management systems, and other access management systems — it will now be possible when we connect these disparate databases with a secure educational AI LLM and expose this securely to an institution’s secure AI tenant. Such a secure system can identify patterns related to learning struggles, emotional issues, substance abuse, and other factors that can negatively affect student success and communicate with related parties securely (complying with FERPA) and in a timely manner.

Prediction 5 — AI will fundamentally reshape education:

As I talk through the various ways AI can help educational institutions, it’s easy to forget how AI can actually help students learn faster, understand better, and progress at their own pace. Though there are reservations about AI and plagiarism, these concerns are no different from initial reservations about using calculators in the classroom or spelling checkers on Word documents. AI will not only help students learn effectively but also help students start moving past the basic concepts of memorization, semantics, and typographic errors quickly and allow them to grasp complex topics quickly.

I concede that AI needs guardrails to protect students from missing core concepts and seeking answers without understanding. But that’s something educational institutions can implement by building their private AI infrastructure with plagiarism detection, learning controls, and configurable AI training data sets based on students’ coursework, learning trajectories, and educational pathways.

AI can not only help students and advisors but can help. Leaders of educational institutions run analytics and generate charts to assess how their organization is performing by comparing different departments, majors, and cohorts.

Let’s build the future of AI and move education forward.

I announced N2N LightLeap (https://www.einpresswire.com/article/676694377/n2n-unveils-lightleap-at-luminate-23) on December 15th, 2023. We are working internally to build out the lightleap LLM for education. The model will be incremental, and our goal will be to start with a secure AI infrastructure that can help students learn better and enable them to progress effectively through their personalized academic journey — by providing AI tools that can support them with their academic needs and resolve administrative hurdles by providing tools necessary to meet institutional objectives.

We have limited availability for additional strategic partners, but if your institution seeks to accomplish similar goals and experiment with secure AI technologies for your campus, I would like to discuss collaboration opportunities with you.

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Kiran Kodithala

Feminist Dad, Amateur Podcast Host, Naturalist Philosopher, Humanist CEO, and an Aspiring Writer