About this challenge
There has been plenty of hype over artificial intelligence and the internet of things. We believe it may be time to put aside the cynicism that this kind of hype generates and look seriously at how we can take advantage of these emerging technologies to improve the student experience, research and the management of our campuses.
Read more about this challenge
There are elements of both of these technologies that are troubling (and even creepy!) but they also offer intriguing potential. We have come up with three scenarios that we think illustrate this potential:
1. The smart campus
The internet of things makes it possible for us to gather real-time data about the environment and usage of our campuses.
It is easy to imagine using this data to ensure our rooms and facilities are managed effectively, but could we go further and monitor environmental conditions in learning spaces or even, using facial recognition software, student reactions during learning so that we can continually refine the learning experience?
2. Contextual learning
Most smartphones now make use of artificial intelligence to make contextual recommendations based on an individual’s location and interests. Could universities and colleges take advantage of this technology to push information and learning materials to students? If we could, it offers some interesting possibilities.
On-campus notifications could nudge students to make best use of the available services such as the library. Off-campus notifications could encourage them to take advantage of the learning opportunities all around them. Could we use approaches like this to turn student’s smartphones into educational coaches, nudging students towards the choices that lead to higher grades and prompting them to expand their learning horizons.
3. Smart experiments
It could be possible for researchers to leave it to their apparatus to collect data about the results that have been generated, then make an operational and environmental report on their status and activities during the experiment.
This information could be automatically organised and published to an electronic laboratory notebook, giving fully structured data and metadata to other researchers and apparatus who can use the information for validation, reproducibility and further research.
We believe that these scenarios are feasible. But are they desirable? And are they the most promising scenarios on offer or are there other scenarios that we should be focusing on?
Questions for you to consider
- Do you think that there are realistic opportunities to enhance learning and research by using artificial intelligence and the internet of things?
- What constraints, if any, should institutions have placed on them when it comes to tracking data?
- What are the most promising opportunities for using artificial intelligence and internet of things in education and research?
- What threats do the internet of things and artificial intelligence pose for education and research?
Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate and respond to the intelligent campus co-design challenge. There was a stimulating discussion which demonstrated a spectrum of understanding and activity in this area.
What were the main themes?
The discussion was broad and some people were enthusiastic about the area whereas others were sceptical. Some universities and colleges are leading in this area, whilst others are concerned about ethical issues around student and staff tracking.
The following themes emerged:
- On the whole there appears to be little joined up thinking and collaboration between teaching and learning, IT and estates
- People are wary of bias and agendas behind algorithms
- There is a lack of literacy and skills in this area
- There is real potential for the kinds of intelligent agents that we find on smart phones
- The idea of eliciting efficiencies from the use of tracking and motion data, as well as environmental data from sensors attracted interest as well as suspicion
- It was also apparent that learning spaces and learning space design are still areas that show a disparity across institutions
We thought that the following ideas were worth exploring and wanted to see what you thought of them.
Arriving at a new institution is a disorientating experience. As students walk around the university or college campus they are faced with problems that need to be resolved in order to help them settle, provide a satisfying experience and even help them on their learning journey.
There are the known problems, such as where is my next lesson? What books would be useful for this topic? When is my tutor free for a quick chat on assignment? Even simple questions could result in a complicated route to multiple online systems. Imagine asking the question, where and when is my next lecture, what resources are available and are there any relevant books in the library on this subject?
There are also the unknown problems, these are the kinds of problems that learners don’t even know they have and haven’t thought to ask? Could the university or college push information and notifications to learners based on where the learner is on campus, when the learner is on campus, and how far the learner is on their learning journey?
Could Jisc help build the tools and practices an institution would need to use to gather, organise and push this data to student’s smartphones as well as exploring novel user interfaces such as chatbots?
If the spaces we use for teaching and learning could speak to us, what would they say?
The spaces across colleges and universities are core to teaching and learning. Are we using them effectively to enhance and enrich the learning journey? Does the environment in which we learn have any or a significant impact on that journey?
There is an institutional memory within those walls that is inaccessible and lost every time the learners leave the room. The room doesn’t remember what worked well or what could have been better. The spaces, if they could store experiences and feedback, would know what was the ideal environment for different learning activities.
Could we use data gathered from teachers and students, as well as space usage, to inform and improve teaching and learning?
Could Jisc help build the tools required to make the gathering and analysis of that data easier as well as exploring how to best act upon the insights produced to make changes?
As we start to use a range of tracking technologies, smart cards, beacons, sensors we are facing a deluge of data in the use of buildings, spaces and equipment across a college or university campus. We are faced with a breadth and depth of data which can be challenging to use effectively and have greatest impact.
Interpreting the data is fraught with challenges and difficulties, as well as potential ethical and legal issues. However this wealth of data does offer the potential to deliver more satisfying experiences for students and staff as well as ensuring the campus is used as effectively as possible.
Is there any benefit in Jisc providing a platform to help gather this data from a range of systems in a standard format that makes it easier to analyse and act upon? Would it be useful to have a national view over this data? Would that enable us to find new patterns that could help us discover the story behind the data, to make appropriate interventions and improve the use of our campuses, buildings and rooms?
Thank you to everyone who voted.
We decided that the three ideas were use-cases which would be enabled if we could develop the basic data infrastructure for the intelligent campus.
However that is a big, long-term development so we decided that our immediate goal should be to analyse in more depth the potential use-cases as well as the technical, ethical and business implications of this approach. Doing this will give us a better idea of where best to get started on developing the data infrastructure for the intelligent campus.
We will be sharing the initial results of our exploration in May. Keep an eye on the Jisc blog for announcements.