By Matt Guenin, chief commercial officer, ElectrifAi.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education institutions are now facing increasing challenges to attract students and grow student enrollment. This challenge has been magnified by the financial crisis with a large number of students reluctant to begin or return to school this fall, especially as concerns with growing unemployment spike record numbers.
Colleges and universities face unprecedented challenges to ensure full classes of qualified and promising students, and traditional recruitment tactics are proving ineffective.
Institutions must find a better way to define their target student and optimize enrollment in a more competitive market. Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is offering higher education an innovative way to do this more effectively.
Momentum building to drop test-based admissions scores
Up until recently, schools have used SAT/ACT/GMAT/GRE scores as a key measure of qualification for admission. But even before the pandemic hit, there was much debate over the efficacy of how these scores could predict academic success or even career potential. Now, with online classes and virtual testing adding another layer of uncertainty to this process, major university systems like California have dropped this requirement given concerns about fairness.
Many more schools are considering dropping test scores entirely and several institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester, and Marquette University, have already moved to a test-optional policy to help attract a broader range of college applicants.
The University of Rochester, which generally receives a high number of applicants, found that having a “test flexible” period made it evident that test scores added little value to the admissions decision process. Marquette chose to drop the requirements for test scores as part of a campaign to attract a more diverse student pool.
The impact of the COVID-19 on student enrollment
While numerous higher education institutions have worked for years to compete more effectively given declining enrollment trends, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for change. Lower enrollment is forecasted this fall as a result of financial disruption, social distancing policies, and concerns with shift to online learning.
Many universities also must face loss of international students given latest restrictions. Essentially, pent up concerns that have been building for years regarding the admissions process for higher education are being exasperated by COVID-19, paired with travel and social distancing restrictions – we’ve created the perfect catalyst for a year of enrollment unlike any before.
Admissions departments will face increasing challenges and disruption given these structural and macro issues in higher education, resulting in a cascade effect across the system covering Tier 1, 2, 3, down through the community colleges.
We will have to learn new ways to make admissions decisions in the face of uncertainty and increased competition by other schools, of which will require largely different approaches for large state schools, regional universities, or small private colleges.
By Randy Lack, safety, security and computer vision manager for the Americas, Dell Technologies.
Many colleges and universities are working to take advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to build “smart campuses” that promise new peace of mind for students and their families and a better overall experience for all who set foot on campus.
Schools are the largest market for video security systems in the U.S., with an estimated $450 million spent in 2018. Adoption will continue to increase as IoT-enabled security solutions come onto the scene—empowering colleges and universities to do more than monitor security cameras and investigate after-event footage.
New kinds of devices and powerful analytics, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, are transforming cameras and sensors from passive data collectors into intelligent observers with the ability to recognize and alert security to potential problems, provide real-time insight during unfolding events, and help identify patterns to proactively deter and prevent problems.
Smart IP cameras with “computer vision” can learn over time to recognize patterns and behaviors in order to zero in on suspicious activity and better predict the likelihood of events. These cameras, combined with sensors that can detect sound, temperature, vibration, chemicals and more, form a system that can alert security to potential problems by relying on insights delivered from analytics-driven interconnected IoT devices.
As a result, security teams can help improve response, share critical information with first responders, make better use of available resources, and help prevent situations from escalating or in some cases, help prevent them from occurring in the first place.
The following are just some of the innovative secure-campus applications being deployed today:
Real-time integrated dispatch solutions that enable live video streams and location mapping to be shared with community police, fire, and other first responders, for faster, more coordinated response
Sensor, floorplan and GPS data that combine with incident monitoring, push notifications, and the ability to pinpoint the location of anyone with a cell phone. This allows first responders to isolate events to send in the right kind of help to where it’s needed more quickly.
The open visibility of 24/7 IoT technologies such as security cameras across campus serve as a deterrent, helping to prevent theft, assault and vandalism
Compact, solar-powered, Wi-Fi / 4G / RF-connected devices help cover “blind spots” without the expense of permitting an infrastructure investment to bring power to them
Smart lighting follow people across dark campuses
“Escort drones” accompany students and staff from one location to another
The need for a holistic, integrated approach
To take advantage of these applications, it’s important to understand that security is no longer confined to self-contained, standalone systems and departments. With IoT, campus safety becomes a widely distributed, networked, and data-driven solution, with new requirements for shared campus policies and IT modernization across infrastructure, security, data management, analytics, operations, software development, and more.
Indeed, many HiEd safety solutions require integration with security and IT organizations beyond the physical campus. For example, a large urban campus in southern California and surrounding city government are working together to tie together data from campus, municipal and even the shuttle buses that transport students to and from the city for cultural and sporting events. The solution being developed also enables city and campus police to log in to each other’s systems when coordinated efforts are needed.