I think the biggest value that I’ve seen is the ability to really connect with students. Students are more informed and can get what they need at 5 a.m. on Sunday or midnight on Tuesday.
Dr. Karen Ferguson, Provost, Colorado State University Global
The student lifecycle is interconnected. Therefore, universities need to consistently be in a position of readiness and put students at the center of decision-making. At Colorado State University (CSU) Global, Dr. Karen Ferguson has leveraged AI technology since 2019 where she served as CSU Global’s Provost. Read on to learn how CSU Global mastered the Four Pillars of scale and adaptability.
Identifying the Need
In 2017, Ferguson started a process to meet the student need of a more personalized learning experience.
Understanding that students expect a “Netflix”-like experience, she wanted students to feel as integrated with their school as they are with other areas of tech in their lives. Personalization was a key component to creating that experience. As Ferguson stated, “we saw that our students know what they want, when they want it and how they want it.”
She elaborated that the integration of AI as CSU Global started as part of an academic strategy to meet the student need, provide timely interaction and enhance the overall student experience. This would allow CSU to build a model to meet the needs of students today and tomorrow, rather than asking them to fit into CSU’s model.
Preparing for AI
When asked how to prepare for introducing AI as a solution, Ferguson outlined the following steps:
1. Use design thinking and stakeholder empathy
“Don’t assume your thoughts about AI represent the thoughts of your stakeholders.”
2. Know why you are implementing AI
“Have a holistic strategy”
3. Keep everyone involved
“Find out what stakeholders want and include them in the solution.”
4. Be patient and share updates.
“You can’t expect the bot to be smart right out of the box.”
5. Update practices to reflect the use of AI
“Updating the website or change policy to reflect the fact you’re moving things around in your environment.”
6. Keep the implementation team engaged
“Always be ready, even during the post implementation phase.”
7. Define and measure success
“Share what you’re learning and keep all stakeholders informed and engaged”
First, CSU-Global engaged ivy.ai, followed by counselors and advisors to get common questions. Then they engaged students to get user experience feedback.
Now, the institution uses focus groups to improve the bot and use its reporting capabilities to find questions the bot was unable to answer. CSU-Global can then review the list and manually enter answers. The bot is also programmed to answer questions based on seasonality, such as in January when FAFSA information needs to be updated.
CSU-Global enjoys the deeper connection its students have with the staff. Because students can get the answers to basic questions from the bot, and the advisors have that insight, they can engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations.
Instead of talking about registering for a course they can talk about what to expect and see what support the student might need to be successful. Ferguson said, “I think the biggest value that I’ve seen is the ability to really connect with students. Students are more informed and can get what they need at 5 a.m. on Sunday or midnight on Tuesday.”
In addition, Ferguston found that, through the institution’s integration with their internal knowledge base, staff could get their questions answered much more quickly than searching the database.
CSU-Global now implements AI into every phase of the student lifecycle, in addition to its business operations. Ferguson wants the student LMS experience to have a more updated feel with fewer clicks. Since students are used to swiping and streaming, clicking through lessons isn’t the experience most students are looking for.
Ferguson envisions a more predictive bot where it can mimic natural campus interactions. She says, “Google can remind us of a hair appointment, can the bot remind us of an assignment that’s due soon?”
- AI helps to improve the human connection and student experience.
- The Four Pillars position institutions to proactively address needs and build community trust in perpetuity.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Ensure that everyone at your institution understands your AI strategy.
- Use data to inform your decision making and continued iterations.
- Give your AI time, and help it to learn.
- Remember why we’re here, and empathize with their needs.