Preparing for AI in Slate and Beyond

Oh no, the robots are coming! Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about Artificial Intelligence–and not the Terminator kind. AI isn’t new, but we’re experiencing the mass adoption of generative AI in our jobs and in our everyday lives–including higher education CRMs. Some features announced during the 2023 Technolutions Slate Summit included the ability to use AI to draft messages, write queries and summarize application documents. Although some of these features have yet to be published, the announcement was a first step in easing the Slate community into AI by helping campuses reimagine how they work. One can predict that this will be one of many steps to come, so don’t be surprised if there are newer developments in 2024. 

I recently had the opportunity to attend a local AI task force meeting with guest Arvind Krishna, chairman and CEO of IBM, who said, “In baseball, you often get a better sense of how the game is going by the fifth or sixth inning. Generative AI is in the first inning and we’re all on the field with it.” 

Although one can debate which innings predict the outcome of a ballgame, I think we can all agree that there are plenty of unknowns in the first inning. Unknowns excite me. Why? Opportunity. There’s a choice to get off the field or stay on the field and influence the game. Rather than meet AI with trepidation, prepare to leverage its power and unlock new opportunities for your campus, students, donors and constituents. 

Below are some tips for embracing and preparing for the ethical and responsible use of AI. 

Accelerate. Evaluate and prioritize tasks that are repetitive or creating backlogs that could be automated in order to get more time back to focus on tasks that AI cannot perform well (e.g., creative and strategic thinking). AI is an assistant, not a replacement for good human judgment and empathy.

In addition to striving for operational efficiencies, think about how integrated AI can shape meaningful and equitable experiences for students. Can an AI bot provide advising resources that are customized to student interests and needs? Can related AI technologies be integrated with Slate or embedded in portal experiences? They can.

Educate. Identify and learn the tools. It’s time to upskill members of your team who will be navigating AI as a part of their roles. Survey staff to inquire about the AI tools they may already be using to accelerate their work and provide development opportunities to build AI acumen. According to the Educause 2024 AI Landscape Study, more than half of respondents had already been given responsibilities related to AI and AI strategy on campus.

Regulate. Don’t focus on regulating algorithms–regulate use cases. Having AI usage guidelines and transparency are critical to the successful and ethical use of AI. 

  • Establish acceptable tools to be used by your office, including how these tools should and should not be used.
  • Emphasize transparency and accountability. Be transparent about when and how AI is used and take accountability for work that is assisted by AI. 
  • Include bias and ethical considerations. Acknowledge bias that may be amplified due to the data that is being fed to AI and set clear guidelines for human intervention. For example, if you’re using First Draft in Slate to draft a message to a student, check and edit the content before sending. If you’re using AI to generate imagery or test records, review the content for unintentional bias or stereotyping.
  • Commit to security and data privacy. Protect campus intellectual property and never submit real student data/PII or materials to an OpenAI or GPT assistant.

If this leaves you wondering how the presence of AI will affect your work or influence how you engage students–good. It isn’t going anywhere. An Intelligent survey ran last year showed that over 80% of educational institutions will use AI for admissions work in 2024. On the flip side, students are using AI for research and essay drafting, which necessitates a whole other set of guidelines to consider. 

By the way, the robots are already here. Humans haven’t disappeared and the value of human judgment, empathy and thinking haven’t either. Let’s work together to solve problems and advance education and society through the use of ethical and responsible AI. Stay on the field. It’ll be worth it.

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Erin Gore

Erin is the Vice President for Client Technology at RHB.