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How The Use of AI in Higher Education Is Impacting Career Readiness

  • Published on: June 10, 2024
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  • Updated on: June 11, 2024
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  • Reading Time: 6 mins
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Authored By:

Kathleen Sestak

VP Sales

In the latest series of low-placement scenarios at top universities, AI has been a critical factor. AI is everywhere – from software development to marketing. That’s not surprising given the vast capabilities of AI tools like content generation, automation, predictive analysis, and real-time data processing. But there is more to the story.

AI is driving significant positive changes in the workforce, leading to the refinement and redefinition of skills across various industries. By automating routine tasks and providing powerful analytical capabilities, AI allows employees to focus on higher-value activities that require creativity, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence. These growing transformations of the job market place higher education in a unique position to change the narrative from the grassroots.

As the new age technologies intrigue learners about the future prospects of the job market, institutions can leverage the use of AI in higher education to motivate, empower, and lead them in the appropriate direction.

 

Recent Higher Education Trends

The evolution in the job market has come at a time when higher education is changing in itself. Learners are giving more thought to how they learn, what they learn, and how they should leverage this learning for the future. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on.

Shifting To Hyflex Learning

Learners are increasingly engaging in hyflex (short for hybrid and flexible learning) learning to complete their courses. The Hyflex model allows each learner to engage with a course in different ways. The learner can opt for synchronous in-person, synchronous online, or asynchronous online sessions as per their preference and location.  This requires a balanced blend of both learning opportunities for learners. Personalized learning pathways need to be made true to this scenario too as they accommodate diverse learning styles, schedules, individual skill levels, and career aspirations. Universities need to modernize their technological infrastructure to ensure all-encompassing professional development among them.

 A group of higher ed professionals discussing on improving the technological infrastructure of their university.

Moving Forward With A Skill-Based Approach

The need to drive learning and career parity has never been so prominent. Learners are gravitating towards skill-based courses that are more relevant, engaging and have a shorter time frame. This is because skill-based courses have specialized learning features centered around practical, hands-on experiences and direct application of knowledge. Universities can benefit from creating tailored courses where learners are engaged in immersive learning environments that mirror real-world scenarios, enabling them to develop and refine their skills through practice. Further through continuous, formative assessment and feedback, they can help learners identify areas for improvement.

Networking and Mentorship

In contemporary higher education, there’s a palpable need for networking and mentorship to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and real-world application, particularly in niche fields and specialized industries. This is because networking provides learners with access to industry insiders enriching their education experience beyond the existing learning materials. Mentorship, on the other hand, offers personalized guidance and insights from seasoned professionals, helping students navigate the intricacies of their chosen field, discover hidden opportunities, and cultivate the skills necessary for success. In such a scenario, universities can leverage their existing talent pool more effectively to fulfill the need for the right mentorship and connections.

These urgencies around modern learning underscore the importance of AI in higher education.

Higher ed learners are interacting with their mentor and communicating with each other.

 

Uses Of Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education

University leaders are already leveraging AI tools for higher education. Professor Mark Dailey, Chief AI officer at the Western University in Ontario, has established pilot projects in collaboration with the faculty to develop new courses in humanities. The Open University uses OU Analyze, an AI-powered predictive analytics tool, to identify learners at risk of dropping out and provide them with appropriate support. Similarly, Georgia State University developed Jill Watson, an AI teaching assistant that answers common student queries, offers guidance on assignments, and assists with course logistics. Freeing up human instructors to focus on more complex student needs. These are just a few of the numerous ways that universities are harnessing the benefits of AI in higher education to deliver value to all learners and educators alike.

However, for institutions to effectively cater to the dynamic trends, some applications will be more important than others. Here are some advanced ways through which institutions can leverage AI tools for higher education to address the changing needs of learners.

AI-Enabled Virtual Labs and Simulations

AI algorithms can enhance immersion and interactivity within VR and AR environments by dynamically generating realistic scenarios, adaptive feedback, and intelligent NPCs (non-player characters) that respond to learners’ actions and decisions. Further, AI-driven analytics can capture and analyze learners’ interactions and performance data in learning management systems integrated within VR/AR simulations, providing valuable insights to educators for personalized instruction and assessment. For instance, students in Arizona State University’s Planning and Control Systems for Supply Chain Management class piloted W. P. Coffee, a virtual reality immersive learning experience, allowing them to manage a virtual coffee shop while receiving live financial updates based on their decisions.

Specialized Large Language Models for Chatbots

Large language models and generative AI in higher education can transform education and research across complex disciplines by making specialized knowledge more accessible, interactive, and personalized, and supporting educators and researchers in their domain-specific endeavors. These models can comprehend and generate complex terminologies, theories, and concepts specific to disciplines such as quantum physics, bioinformatics, or ancient languages, enabling more effective teaching and learning in these areas. For instance, IBM’s Watson Genomics for Quest Diagnostics powered by Broad Institute’s advanced genome sequencing capabilities, assists researchers in mutation analysis, integrates related research for genomic data, and suggests possible clinical trial options for cancer patients.

AI-Enabled Networking and Mentorship Platforms

AI-powered platforms can analyze users’ profiles, academic records, and career goals to recommend suitable mentors, nurturing meaningful connections and mentorship relationships. Additionally, AI-driven networking tools can facilitate introductions, schedule meetings, and track progress in mentorship interactions, streamlining the networking process and providing personalized support to learners and alumni. Through these AI-enabled networking and mentorship initiatives, higher education institutions can enhance professional development opportunities, promote knowledge sharing, and empower individuals to succeed in their academic and career endeavors. For example, the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center, successfully partnered with PeopleGrove to effectively connect 1,50,000+ alumni with students for career guidance and networking.

 

Strategies To Cover Skill Gaps

For institutions, addressing the evolving learner needs and skills gaps is difficult when they lack the technological infrastructure and trained teacher staff to implement it on a large scale. In such scenarios, the transformation should be done in incremental steps.

Technical and Pedagogical Strategy

Institutions need to dive deep into research to understand what levels of integration are feasible. The choice of courses to test run and the supportive platforms and applications should make the case for long-term investment. In terms of the right pedagogical approach, an ideal solution for institutes would be to trust their educators with the understanding of what their learners need. Thereafter, institutions can evaluate the compatibility of new technology with existing systems to ensure seamless integration and scalability for future growth. Educators should also prioritize user-friendly and intuitive platforms to facilitate ease of use for both educators and students, and ensure data security, privacy, and compliance with proper regulations. By carefully evaluating these factors, institutions can choose the right technology partner to support their learning environment’s diverse requirements.

Teacher Training

Encouraging the use of AI technology among educators is imperative for effective transformation. The academic staff must be provided with apt technical and pedagogical support to build their capacity to teach through innovative mediums. They must be provided training through workshops, guides, and user manuals for self-paced learning. Additionally, they must be cognizant of student feedback and loop in those recommendations for technical upgrades whenever beneficial.

 

Conclusion

Higher education learners can derive the maximum benefits from the AI-based tools made possible for career and skill development. Through the use of AI in higher education, institutions will be able to create better career opportunities than they do now and position themselves as powerful advancement platforms.

Written By:

Kathleen Sestak

VP Sales

Kathleen leverages over 20 years of sales leadership to drive growth in the Higher Education markets. Known for her data-driven storytelling and strategic account expansion, she collaborates closely with cross-functional teams to exceed revenue goals. Passionate about delivering value and constantly learning, Kathleen brings innovative solutions and insights that readers will eagerly anticipate.

FAQs

AI is impacting job placements by redefining required skills and automating routine tasks, allowing graduates to focus on higher-value activities that demand creativity and problem-solving. This enables graduates to be more competitive in a rapidly evolving job market.

HyFlex learning combines hybrid and flexible learning, allowing students to choose between synchronous in-person, online, or asynchronous online sessions. This model benefits students by accommodating diverse learning styles, schedules, and locations, enhancing accessibility and personalization.

Universities should invest in AI for personalized learning because AI tailors educational experiences to individual student needs, improving engagement and learning outcomes. It creates a flexible and adaptive learning environment, making education more effective and relevant to each student.

Institutions should begin with thorough research to determine feasible integration levels, select appropriate courses for pilot testing, and choose user-friendly, scalable technology. Ensuring data security and compliance with regulations is also crucial for successful AI integration.

When selecting AI technology partners, universities should evaluate compatibility with existing systems, scalability, user-friendliness, and compliance with data security and privacy regulations. Additionally, they should ensure that the technology supports diverse learning environments and offers robust technical support.

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