How Digital Assistants Are Changing Higher Ed
The entire landscape of higher education has been altered dramatically by the advent in the EdTech sector, with digital assistants being one of the technological advancements that could have the most pronounced effect on higher education going forward. Per a new report by the folks over at Educause, advancements in virtual assistants could lead to more institutions using virtual assistants in higher education over the next several years.
In fact, several universities have already begun to utilize Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Home interface to help with things such as financial aid questions and housing queries. While these are basic setups, it’s a good example that shows how virtual assistants can already be utilized throughout education. Imagine the advancements that could be made when virtual assistants, like Alexa, have greater capabilities than could currently be imagined.
What Do Virtual Assistants Do For Colleges Now?
One great example of virtual assistants’ growing impact on higher education is the Husky Helper virtual assistant put together by the folks over at Northeastern University.
This assistant has a cache of the 20 most asked questions during the university call center’s interactions over the past three years. Rather than being forced to wait on hold to have a Frequently Asked Question answered, students can utilize the Husky Helper to get the answer they need.
This saves the university money on staffing their call center. It also streamlines the informational request process to make it much easier for students.
When we look at the impact virtual assistants currently have on higher education, it very much pales in comparison to what these virtual assistants can do and/or will have the capacity to do going forward.
Where Can Virtual Assistants Take Us In Higher Education?
The evolution of artificial intelligence and its impact on virtual assistants is stunning week by week, let alone month by month or year by year. Virtual assistants are becoming less prone to informational parroting and are starting to be developed with conversational capacities far exceeding what’s currently on the market.
With enhanced virtual assistants in tow built to specifications, they could begin to have an impact on all sorts of new areas in the higher education process. They could also be used as custom study agents. And even crazier, they could be used as supplemental resources for lectures.
In time, they could even become advanced enough to work as a teacher’s assistant normally would – fielding questions, helping grade certain assignments, etc.
There are definitely concerns to be had here. Any time there is a proliferation of new technology which hasn’t fully figured out its own potential, there are a host of privacy and security concerns that could arise. There’s also the problem of access. While virtual assistants could do wonders helping students with disabilities or special learning needs, there is still unequal access to broadband internet services across the student populace.
In fact, a recent report indicates that about 16% of students had little to no access to internet services at home over the last 12 months. If students are unable to access these virtual assistants when they need them most, their impact will be null and void.
There are plenty of opportunities to come by when it comes to virtual assistants, but there is still a long path ahead to realizing their potential in higher education. One thing is for sure, virtual assistants will definitely be used in the future.