How Voice Technologies are Going to Impact Higher Education in the United States

How Voice Technologies are Going to Impact Higher Education in the United States

The five ways voice technologies are going to impact higher education in the United States over the next 3-5 years are making campus life easier, real-world learning assistance, classroom support, the rise of privacy concerns and increased efficiency in learning.

1. EASIER CAMPUS LIFE

  • Northeastern University in Boston has installed over 60 Echo Dot devices across its campus to allow learners to ask Alexa about any available information.
  • A custom Saint Louis University (SLU) skill deployed on each device offers immediate responses to over 100 university-specific issues such as “What time is the library closing tonight?” to “Where is the office of the registrar?”
  • When college students from Emerson, Massachusetts want data about events on campus, they consult Em, the voice-powered virtual assistant to the school.
  • Accessed by any Amazon Alexa-enabled device, Em helps find rooms and offices, determine when to drop or add lectures, and acquire other data about the college.
  • Students can also listen via voice recognition to the college radio station and hear the recent news from the campus.
  • spARk, an AR and voice platform for Steam educators and learners that was formed at Columbia University, built a platform for teachers to search and upload lesson plans, which can then be transformed into interactive and multi-sensory learning experiences for learners.
  • As students learn, the platform utilizes voice technology to listen to student advancement and provide educators with extensive feedback that can enhance future lessons.
  • SLU’s chief information officer David Hakanson says that “We think the voice technology is going to expand well past the student experience and will help overall productivity for different user groups at the university.”

2. REAL-WORLD LEARNING ASSISTANCE

  • Students at Arizona State University (ASU) use voice-enabled tech to complete projects that expand their technical abilities and assist them to explore applications in the real world.
  • A team of learners created an app during an on-campus contest that enables students Down syndrome to access voice-guided relaxation techniques, ask questions or hear comforting phrases spoken by a caregiver.
  • Students can interface with teaching management schemes for Blackboard or Canvas to run their grades through an algorithm that indicates how much time each class needs to study and receive voice messages announcing the end of study intervals.
  • Deputy CIO John Rome says the activities which have introduced voice tech in residence halls, classrooms, and public meeting spaces have been very successful according to student surveys and is optimistic on expansion.
  • Mr. Rome says, “By working with Amazon to create the first voice-enabled campus, we’re furthering ASU’s position as the No. 1 university in the U.S. for innovation.”
  • It fosters the evolution of ASU towards an “intelligent campus,” a vision for a future university environment that incorporates sensing, connectivity, and data analytics to inform decision-making, optimize activities and energy efficiency, and generate an extremely personalized campus experience for all students, professors, employees, and alumni.

3. CLASSROOM SUPPORT

  • Echo Dots from Amazon are preloaded with an Alexa voice, which enables students to easily access educational information.
  • Voice-activated technology will play a significant role in higher education and will assist learners, faculty members, and staff to improve their productivity.
  • Planners at the University of Saint Louis are now exploring methods to promote instruction and access classroom tech.
  • Students can ask Alexa about campus activities and courses that go a long way in engaging learners. Studies indicate that strong engagement with the campus leads to better grades and better retention.
  • Alexa skill makes it simpler for learners to find out who their scholarly consultant is.
  • The plan involves the installation of voice equipment in classrooms to enable faculty members to regulate audiovisual systems in rooms readily and to be less tied to lecterns.
  • The tech staff at San Diego State University are working with a professor who teaches from a wheelchair to support voice activation of classroom presentation equipment.
  • While the project is ongoing, Frazee, senior academic technology officer, and the director are confident that it will yield positive outcomes.

4. THE RISE OF PRIVACY CONCERNS

  • In the future, universities hope to personalize educational experiences for students. However, with more personalization, concern about keeping sensitive student data and information private arises.
  • SLU’s chief information officer David Hakanson confirms that Putting voice technology equipment in the bedrooms of learners raises concerns about privacy.
  • SLU administrators “did not feel it was the right time” to introduce voice technology because of issues that learners could access the data of each other.
  • Sophia Cope, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that campaigns for digital privacy rights remarks that universities should obtain consent from FERPA — a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records from voice technology.
  • Mrs. Cope adds that “Universities have an obligation to find out what data these devices collect, how the company intends to use that data and to control data collection and use through the contract.”
  • Dan Drapeau, head of technology at Blue Fountain Media, says that “Voice technology does pose some data and privacy concerns, especially for colleges interested in providing more personalized student experiences.”
  • Mr. Drapeau suggests that authentication or encryption of data by multiple users must be considered in order to avoid access to sensitive data such as grades or financial information.
  • According to Saint Louis University’s FAQ page, “This system is not tied to individual accounts and does not maintain any personal information for any of our users, so all use currently is anonymous.”
  • The page goes on to suggest that If learners are still uneasy in their room with an intelligent speaker, they can simply unplug it.

5. INCREASED EFFICIENCY IN LEARNING

  • Saint Louis University in Missouri recently announced that it would put more than 2,300 Echo Dot intelligent speakers in every dorm room on campus with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa.
  • The Echo speakers will be controlled by Alexa for Business, meaning they will not be connected to the individual Amazon accounts of learners, but will be run by the college through a central account.
  • Each speaker will have a custom program known as a “skill” that allows learners to ask more than 100 campus-specific questions.
  • SLU’s chief information officer David Hakanson reports that voice technology can boost efficiency.
  • Mr. Hakanson says that “Online searches to answer common questions are multi-step processes that require students to pull up the SLU homepage on their phones or laptops can take two to four minutes while students asking Alexa, can get that response in five seconds.”
  • In 2017, Arizona State University put 1,600 Amazon Echo Dots in student dorms of first-year engineering students, encouraging learners to use consumer hardware to exercise voice user interface abilities.
  • Students at Missouri’s Park University can use voice commands to access the LMS Canvas and pick up audio presentations, course announcements, and due dates for assignments.
  • James Nelson, associate vice president of information technology services says that voice technology features have not only led to general information access but also rapid growth in overall adoption.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

We leveraged a compilation of news articles, university websites, technology reports and university journals to curate the five ways voice technologies are going to impact higher education in the United States over the next 3-5 years. After thoroughly combing through reputable university journals such as UniversityBusiness, eCampusNews, EdSurge and InsideHigheEd and news articles such as CNBC and technology reports such as NSTech and official university sites such as Arizona State University and Saint Louis University, we were able to find pre-compiled data on ways voice technologies are going to impact higher education in the United States over the next 3-5 years.


In addition, we were able to find US universities such as Missouri’s Park University, Northeastern University, Arizona State University and Saint Louis University that have incorporated voice technologies in their education systems. We looked into each of their case studies and we were able to identify how they have used voice technologies in their institutions and what they are saying about the technology. Other than the rise of privacy concerns, the mentioned universities and the other sources we used, were all in agreement of the evidently positive impacts voice technology has brought in higher learning; which are easier campus life, real-world learning assistance, classroom support and increased efficiency in learning. Some of them attribute the success of their universities to this new technology.

We determined the five impacts of voice technologies after determining they were all common and popular across the universities and the sources. In addition, we made sure to include the most recent sources most of them being published in 2019 that talked about voice technology projects that are in place and are yet to be completed, but will certainly be fully functional over the next 3-5 years.

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