How Vice-Chancellors can innovate for impact in 2020

How Vice-Chancellors can innovate for impact in 2020

Studies show that 65% of today’s school students will graduate into jobs that do not yet exist, with automation driving 375 million workers to switch roles by 2030.

The increased use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics in various industries is expected to disrupt the training landscape, shaking up the way universities and other higher education providers use data to assess student performance.

AI and machine learning are helping to improve the integrity of academic submissions in some interesting, and effective, ways.

A recent study involving Deakin University and Internet-based plagiarism detection service Turnitin examined how machine learning is helping universities more accurately identify suspicious student submissions and detect plagiarism.  

Arjun Singh is the vice-president of STEM products and technology at Turnitin, as well as the co-founder of Gradescope, an assessment platform that reduces the time associated with grading in college courses.

Below, Singh draws from his experience in the industry to tell The Educator about some exciting ed-tech opportunities for Vice-Chancellors in the year ahead.

TE: In your view, what are the most exciting developments in IT, smart technology and IoT that are currently taking place in the Australian education sector?

AS: Developments in areas such as data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) present exciting opportunities for the education sector, in terms of their ability to create personalised learning experiences for students of all standards. In Australia, schools typically function with two goals in mind: to customise learning for students based on their particular needs and to personalise instructions. To truly achieve this, educators need better access to data to understand a students’ academic performance or potential in particular tasks. Add AI to this equation, with its ability to find patterns, commonalities and gaps in knowledge, and we’ll see a whole new level of differentiation that’s impossible for teachers today who manage 30 or more students in each class.

TE: Education leaders obviously play a key role in solving the innovation problem in Australia’s education sector. What are some of the ways you believe Vice-Chancellors can address this challenge in 2020?

AS: Academic leaders – whether that be principals at primary and secondary schools or Chancellors at higher education institutions in Australia – play an important role in the success of new digital learning initiatives. While there is awareness among leaders on how technology can promote new learning and growth opportunities for students, greater focus should be placed on the implementation process to ensure that it is a smooth transition for students and teachers. For example, principals should assess how technology can integrate with existing systems such as the LMS and ensure that technical support is available to address increased risks of data security and privacy. Principals should also look to incorporate people in all parts of the implementation process to ensure commitment and consistent approaches in the classroom; using a diverse group of influencers in the design and solution process. 

TE: Drawing from your own industry experience, what ways can AI better prepare university students for an uncertain workforce future?

AS: We’re already seeing AI applied to education through grading and assessment tools. As AI-powered education solutions continue to mature, the next wave of innovation will be using AI to address learning and skills gaps in areas like STEM and to better equip students for a changing workforce. In Australia, the increasing demand for technologically skilled workers means proficiency in STEM can better position students to be competitive in the workforce. By combining instructor expertise with AI, our Gradescope platform can assist teachers in giving consistent and unbiased feedback to students, as well as effortlessly aggregate meaningful statistics on student performance. In another vein, teaching elements of AI in non-computing subjects, for example teaching students how to train a chatbot to answer questions on Australian history, can help to build skills which robots and machines can’t emulate.

TE: Some schools and universities are using AI to remove the administrative burden on teachers and help them design the most effective classroom experience. What are the most powerful examples of this you have seen in 2019?

AS: Schools and universities around the world are already testing AI in teaching and learning, from improving grading and assessment to predicting student performance. Universities like Stanford, UC-Berkeley and New York University are using Gradescope’s AI-assisted grading platform to reduce the burden on assessors and slash turnaround time on assignments, to allow for faster identification of knowledge gaps in the class and for more personal intervention. In another example, Deakin University is using IBM Watson to enhance the student experience, by enabling student to ask questions about administrative and course information in natural language, in place of searching through keyword-based FAQs. In the next year, we expect to see more educational institutions take advantage of AI to promote enhanced student learning and innovation consistent with the purpose and integrity of education.