How technology is reshaping the college student experience

BrandPost By Julie Johnston, Executive Education Vertical Director, Avaya
28 Feb 20245 mins
Artificial IntelligenceDigital TransformationMachine Learning

Good news: More than 70% of higher ed admins have a favorable view of AI despite low adoption to date, and one-third of campus IT leaders are considering experimenting with AI/ML.

students outside
Credit: Avaya

Question: Is higher education worth it? 

Only 59% of students who say they’re likely to re-enroll at their four-year university seem to think so, according to a study recently conducted by RNL, and that number is only slightly higher for community college students. The rest report being dissatisfied with their overall experience at the institution they attend. Interestingly, the group with the highest satisfaction rate is online learners. Over 75% are thriving and believe their tuition paid is a worthwhile investment, proving a clear link between student satisfaction in higher learning and technology.

Retention, graduation rates, alumni giving, and so much more hinge on student satisfaction. In a world where every aspect of life is digitally connected, and as tuition prices and the student debt bubble soar, higher education institutions are expected to be cutting-edge hubs of technological advancement. A McKinsey report found that students and faculty are eager to continue using new learning technologies, but institutions could do more to support the shift. 

Artificial Intelligence 

AI is still in its infancy in the world of higher education, but the future looks bright. More than 70% of higher ed admins have a favorable view of AI despite low adoption to date, and one-third of campus IT leaders are considering experimenting with AI, machine learning (a type of AI that enables machines to automatically learn from data to identify patterns and make predictions with minimal human involvement) and adaptive learning (data-driven instruction that adjusts and tailors learning experiences to meet the individual needs of each student). 

From recruitment to alumni, the possibilities are endless for AI to power seamless and effortlessly integrated experiences. Here are just a few ways AI-powered tools can be used to improve students’ experiences:

  1. Optimize course loads
  2. Provide personalized coaching and tutoring
  3. Design flexible, customizable learning paths
  4. Integrate content across courses and extracurricular activities
  5. Evaluate institutional processes and courses
  6. Assess student learning and much more

Technology in action: Alabama State University is pioneering the use of generative AI in the classroom to improve student outcomes and support its busy faculty. Students are greeted with a personalized generative AI teaching assistant in their Learning Management System. The integrated bot is available 24/7 and each version is customized with faculty course materials and a unique personality – a “digital twin” of the professor. In addition, the technology assists faculty in building lesson plans, curating ever-changing content, and managing assessments. 

See how Avaya helped Clemson University create an experiential, AI-powered learning platform.

Accessible and Inclusive Tools and Processes

From student affairs to online learning to financial aid, the entirety of a student’s experience should be accessible and inclusive. There’s no one way to approach this, nor a playbook for “getting it right.” Nonetheless, colleges and universities must commit to ongoing and continuous evaluation and improvement, which requires close collaboration and alignment across all key stakeholders. 

Top priorities for accessibility and inclusion in higher education include:

  • Expanded mental health support for students as depression, anxiety, and loneliness grow (83% of students say mental health negatively impacts academic performance).
  • Inclusion for those who identify as non-traditional students (i.e., adult learners, hybrid and remote learners).
  • Tools that help educators take a more proactive approach to accessibility and inclusion.
  • Addressing the needs of historically marginalized groups of students.
  • Improving the needs of students with disabilities. 

Technology in action: The State University of New York (SUNY), the Cal State Los Angeles Center for Effective Teaching and Learning (Cal State LA CETL), and the California Community Colleges are currently collaborating with more than 60 institutions to create a framework that can be used to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices into any higher ed online course. At Cal State Los Angeles, the course is called Annotations for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Online Course Design.

See how Avaya helped Delgado Community College create an inclusive learning environment that increased student and faculty collaboration.

Unified Data Models for Learning Analytics 

Higher ed institutions sit on mountains of data, but these mountains are molehills without the help of unified data models. Unified data models bring together all the disparate data an institution has, allowing the people who handle it to carry out more robust analyses (in other words, make smarter, student-centered decisions with a 30,000 ft. data view). For example, data about students’ course engagement behavior can be combined with data about their extracurricular activities to glean insights about school/life balance. 

Here are some ways to wield the power of your institution’s data:

  • Strategic planning 
  • Student advising 
  • Student retention (gleaning insights from attendance, grades, and enrollment data)
  • Providing faculty and staff with recommendations, such as instructional approaches and resources for students
  • Using your data as a recruitment tool, showing prospective students what they’ll get for their investment with your institution (in the U.S., several states have actually passed or proposed laws requiring that certain information be made available to students for this purpose).

Knowing the importance of technology, would students choose to re-enroll at your institution?

Get more insights, examples, and technology practices for optimizing the student experience with this comprehensive report from EDUCAUSE, sponsored by Avaya.