University Business October 2019 - 44

UB TECH

AI: AMPLIFIED
changing campuses. The "smart responses" help streamline operations,
reducing the amount of administrative
time spent answering recurring inquiries.
"To provide students with accurate
information, we have to go into [our
current] student information system and
click on several different screens to gather
the information we need," Coder says.
The staff trained its AI tool to retrieve
information from the database, analyze it
and provide a summary on the user interface, decreasing the process time from 15
minutes for an academic advisor to just a
few seconds for AI. The tool is expected
to launch departmentwide in 2020. In

the meantime, much work is going on
behind the scenes where academic advisors are doing quality assurance reviews
to ensure that AI responses are as accurate
as their own (and more efficient).
Boosting efficiencies was also top of
mind when officials at The University of
Alabama at Birmingham began embracing AI. Their first initiatives, which triggered automatic notifications to students
who were not attending classes or were at
risk of failing, got introduced in 2017;
the campus is now piloting a chatbot to
respond to frequently asked student or
staff questions.
Curtis Carver, vice president of infor-

WHAT TO DO
BEFORE MAKING AN
INVESTMENT IN AI
Assess options. Artificial
intelligence has the potential to
address a number of business
issues, so it's important to
establish specific goals. Dawn
Coder, director of academic
Penn State World Campus advising
advising and student disability
services for Penn State World
Campus, believes that lacking a clear vision can make it harder to see the
value of AI. "Part of the reason we've been so successful," she says, "is
because we did process mapping and identified areas where we thought
things could be automated for us," while also providing more positive
student interactions.
Ask questions. Technology providers may not have experience working with
higher ed institutions and your team may lack sufficient expertise in AI to
marry institutional needs and available technology options, points out Coder.
"The biggest challenge for us was looking at what was available and connecting that to our business need, and then asking questions to overcome
the unknown."
Understand cultural issues. Rolling out AI tools for business processes can
be challenging because faculty and staff may not be as comfortable with the
tools as students are, says Curtis Carver, CIO of The University of Alabama at
Birmingham. "We started with systems that were much simpler, much safer
and had a much lower risk profile to augment what overworked faculty were
already doing."

44 | October 2019

mation technology and chief information
officer at UAB, explains that staff can
now avoid navigating through multiple
screens on their current administration
system to access a pay stub, to check available vacation time or to perform other
human resources functions. Instead, they
can just command the chatbot: "Show
me my pay stub."
"It lets people solve problems and
move forward much more efficiently,"
says Carver, who covered AI as part of
his keynote address at UB Tech® 2019.
"We're all so busy, and right now we're
not serving the information in the right
format to help people do the right thing."
2. Prioritize privacy
Allowing a chatbot (or other AI tool)
to gather and analyze mass quantities
of information-especially sensitive information such as student and staff records-raises privacy concerns. Almost
half of U.S. adult respondents to a 2018
survey conducted by The Brookings Institution believed AI would reduce their
personal privacy.
To address those concerns, UAB published new privacy standards that cover
information on websites, the European
Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data, and data related
to children 13 and under (who attend
camps or other campus activities). Carver
expects to publish an additional privacy
standard related to non-GDPR data later
this year.
"We are, like many other universities,
mapping where the data is in our systems," he says. "We've made a good start
in looking at privacy as it relates to the AI
systems, [but] it's going to take us two to
three years to identify all of the IT systems that have privacy-related data and
then create a mechanism to remove that
data if the user requests it."
A data protection officer was appointed to collaborate with the chief information security officer on implementing the privacy standards and mapping
the location of the data in their systems.
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