Published: 6 Minutes read

AI as a Tool for Better Student Services

We draw on our experience with the University of Galway, Ireland and explore innovative approaches and strategies to revolutionise student engagement in higher education.

Why does student engagement matter?

Let’s discuss AI as a tool for better student services by first asking – why does student engagement matter? Engagement is a vital aspect of a student’s academic journey and overall University experience. It encompasses three pillars; academic, intellectual, and social/emotional, and it influences various aspects of student life. 

There is data supporting the importance of engagement. In a meta-analysis of decades of corporate engagement data, Gallup found that high engagement consistently leads to more positive outcomes, such as higher productivity, lower absenteeism, higher quality work, and higher job satisfaction. Likewise, within grades 5 to 12, Gallup found engaged students are 2.5 times more likely to say they do well in school and are 4.5 times more hopeful about their futures than their disengaged peers. Engagement correlates with success.

From improved learning outcomes and social well-being to higher retention and graduation rates, it’s obvious that prioritising student engagement holds significant importance. Let’s hone in on a few examples of just how much it can benefit the individual and collective student journey.

  • Enhanced Learning: When students actively engage in their studies, they ask questions, seek clarification, collaborate with peers, and critically analyse information. This active involvement leads to a deeper and more meaningful learning experience. Engaged students tend to perform better academically as they actively participate in class discussions, complete assignments, and projects, and seek feedback from lecturers. They develop a stronger understanding of the subject matter, leading to overall academic improvement. Engaged students are also more likely to utilise academic support services, such as tutoring or mentoring, which further contribute to their success at University.
  • Social and Emotional Well-being: Student engagement creates a positive campus climate and fosters social interaction. Engaged students are more likely to build strong relationships with peers, faculty, and staff, creating a supportive network. This sense of belonging enhances their overall well-being, reduces stress levels, and increases satisfaction with the University experience. When students come together to share diverse perspectives, and engage in respectful dialogue, it enriches the educational experience for everyone involved.
  • Retention and Graduation Rates: Student engagement plays a crucial role in higher retention and graduation rates. When students feel connected to their learning environment and have positive relationships with faculty and peers, they are more likely to persist and successfully complete their degree programmes. By fostering a sense of belonging and meaning, student engagement contributes to their motivation and commitment to achieving their educational goals.

University of Galway Experience

The University of Galway, like many other universities worldwide, faced significant challenges brought to the fore by the Covid-19 pandemic. These challenges included an overstretched Student Support workforce, anxious students in need of personalised support, and data silos within the organisation. To address these issues, we offered the University a scalable and user-friendly AI tool for better student services that could save time and resources while providing high-quality, on-demand support.

To meet these needs, Galvia developed an AI-powered student engagement platform and virtual assistant that yielded impressive results. The implementation of this platform in November 2021 has to date resulted in a 40% reduction in repetitive manual tasks, saving over 1500 staff hours. Additionally, the AI system has successfully resolved over 20,000 student queries, with 84% of them being resolved instantly. Read our Success Story in full here.

University of Galway, Ireland deploys AI as a tool for better student services

Top three technologies to enhance Student Services

There are numerous technologies that Universities and educators can employ to promote student engagement. However, choices may vary depending on the strategic goals of the University and other demographic factors. Nevertheless here are our top three recommendations for AI as a tool for better student services:

  1. Real-World Applications: By connecting classroom learning to real-world applications, it will demonstrate the relevance of the subject matter. It will show how the concepts and skills being taught can be applied in practical scenarios or future careers.
  2. AI and Data Analytics: By leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics, universities can gain insights into student performance, engagement patterns, and learning preferences. Analysing this data can help educators tailor instructional strategies, identify areas for improvement, and provide targeted interventions to enhance student engagement and success.
  3. Online Collaboration Tools: Utilising digital tools and platforms that facilitate online collaboration and communication like Google Docs, and Microsoft Teams, enable students to work together, share ideas, and contribute to group projects regardless of their physical location. 

What is an AI Student Services platform? 

Student engagement platforms have significantly enhanced the higher education student experience. Before the advent of these platforms, student engagement was primarily limited to in-person interactions within the classroom. Students now have access to a wealth of multimedia resources, virtual simulations, and adaptive learning modules that promote a deeper understanding of complex concepts. 

The platforms enable real-time communication and student collaboration, fostering peer learning and teamwork irrespective of geographical boundaries. Timely feedback on assignments, assessments, and discussions is facilitated, allowing students to track their progress and make necessary improvements. 

The platforms also provide a centralised repository of learning materials, accessible anytime and anywhere. Moreover, the integration of data analytics and AI technologies enables personalised learning pathways and targeted support for individual student needs.

AI as a tool for student services: 

Higher-level institutions can significantly improve student engagement by effectively integrating AI technologies into the learning environment. AI enables personalised learning, intelligent support, interactive experiences, and data-driven insights, fostering active participation and academic success among students. 

Implementing an AI-powered virtual assistant like the University of Galway did across their various digital platforms means Cara can serve as a 24/7 resource, providing instant responses to student queries, offering recommendations, and guiding students through various academic processes. Cara’s ability to provide personalised support, offer real-time assistance, and recommend tailored resources contributes to a more interactive, accessible, and engaging learning environment.

In summary, student engagement is crucial for enhanced learning, social well-being, and academic success. By actively involving students in their educational journey, Universities can create a supportive and enriching environment that promotes student growth and achievement.

Read about our work with The University of Galway and how we helped them on their journey to digital transformation.

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