#22-How Technology Could Impact the Future of International Education (Part I)?- With Hanna Lee
Description: In this episode, we have our old friend Hanna back! We are talking about how technology influences our work at higher education and student affairs, particularly in international education. We will have two episodes talking about this topic. We will also talk about what we can do to stand out as student affairs professionals in the age of technology.
AI, students, metaverse, international students, technology, learning, years, opt, campus, education, Hanna Lee, software, stem, majors, incorporating, colleges, experience, universities, higher education, work
Hanna Lee, Lixing Li
Lixing Li 00:00
Hello everyone. Welcome back to our global connection CGDSD podcast channel. I am your host Lixing. So it’s been a while since we haven’t seen our great audience. Joining me back today is our old friend Hanna Lee. In our previous episodes, Hanna shared her career journey in higher education. For our new audience today, you should definitely check out Episodes 17 and 18. Today, we’re inviting Hanna back to our channel to talk about how current trending technology influences her job in higher education. Hello, Hanna. Welcome back.
Hanna Lee 00:32
Hi, everyone. Hi, Lixing! My name is Hanna, and I’m International Student Services and Data Manager at SUNY Oswego. It’s my honor to be back with Lixing to share my thoughts on trending keywords like AI Meteverse and Crypto. Hope this podcast episode can inspire you to think about what your main job responsibilities could change in five or ten years.
Lixing Li 00:56
Thank you so much again, Hanna, I am so excited to have you back to chat about this topic. You know what? You are the most technology-savvy person among my friends who are working in higher education. We’re going to talk about many trends in technology today. First of all, can you tell us how did you get interested in educational technology? What brought you into this technology field in the first place?
Hanna Lee 01:21
So there are many things that have affected me to shape who I am now. But there are two main personal beliefs that I have, that have helped me to be an international education professional with a high interest in technology and data. So first, I believe a key component of working full time is figuring out what’s at the core of the problem, and suggesting ideas to solve issues. So in this sense, data can point us or make it clearer to see what’s the real issue. And to get to that point data, we can use the data to drill through the available software. And to utilize the software having a computer computing mindset is imprudent. My other belief is that to serve the younger and younger generation, AKA Gen Z, and the future generation, educational institutions must be open to new technologies and new trends. So in terms of education, as you may know, already, administrative and teaching staff are considered seasonal, as they have more experience with working or teaching, right? However, if seasonal staff or leadership at educational institutions are not interested in new technology, and don’t consider possible applications to the classroom or offices, the gap between where and how our students spend their time learning outside of school and inside the educational building will be deepened. So in other words, students may find academic learning or communicating with administrators more and more boring and outdated if educational organization keep the way it is. So this is why I’m interested in learning new technologies and brainstorming how they can be applied to my work as a student advisor and Data Manager.
Lixing Li 03:14
This is great, Hanna, you definitely have good points. I really appreciate your active learning and growth mindset in your career path. As we know artificial intelligence has been trending this year while this years and the education field cannot be isolated. ChatGPT is definitely the most trending one. Like our topic today we’re going to talk about AI and education, particularly in international education. How has artificial intelligence turned out to be so popular in educational fields now?
Hanna Lee 03:47
So we have seen various reactions on ChatGPT and AI Power Search Engines. Some say it’s doomed for academics or education in general and others say we will need to adapt to new technologies. I want to put a disclaimer before we get into further. This episode is not going to be another debate on whether AI and Chat GPT is good for our students or not. Instead, we’re going to look at current practices as well as the implications of the current technology to refer to future internet and education, from the regulation standpoint, as the title suggests.
The first national initiative comes from the National Science Foundation, AKA NSF. So NSF announced that they’re going to invest around $220 billion in building 11 AI research centers across the country. This NSF initiative also includes colleges and universities like the Georgia Institute of Technology, California State University, Ohio, State University, and so on. So it’s already been two years Since the project was started, so again, AI is not something that’s new, although two years is pretty new, but not too new.
When you look at the individual institution level, Colby College in Maine and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey are the ones who are actively integrating AI into the curriculum. For instance, Colby College, which is a private liberal arts college. So it’s very surprising that Colby College is not a stem institution, it’s a private liberal arts college that established the institute called the Davis Institute for artificial intelligence in 2021. So again, 2021 may sound new, but not too new, compared to the recent discussion regarding the AI-powered search engine or ChatGPT.
So what do the various institutions do, right, it got spotlights because of their initiatives to add AI into humanities, so again, they’re not using AI for the data for STEM majors, they incorporated AI into humanities, which is commonly considered as the opposite subject of science. So moving, right, the data marathon, and that’s called a data-thon and call the four possible solutions to real-life problems, and organize the first AI art exhibition, where students could submit art, even if it was created through DALL-E-1 which is an open AI program. So there are now many, discussions about like if AI would substitute the artists or something like that, but this is the institution where it allows students to submit our pieces using the software. It’s interesting to see how private liberal arts college is actively implementing AI tools in various campus events rather than banning those tools.
Now, when I was reading these articles, I couldn’t resist thinking about how these AI-incorporated curricula could challenge the current immigration rules. So let me give you a specific example. Currently, international students can apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training), which allows them to engage in work experience in the US upon graduation. And these OPT participants, then major students can extend their OPT periods for additional 24 months through STEM OPT extension. So you may know this because you work with international students. So as you can assume from the program name, STEM OPT is eligible for STEM majors students only right?
But what exactly would the STEM major mean in the future? So that’s my question for today’s podcast. The eligibility is determined by what is called the CIP code, the classification of instructional programs. CIP is an acronym for the Classification of Instructional Programs and is listed by the US Department of Education. So historically, eligible CIP codes for STEM OPT sounded like stem, let’s say something engineering something physics just to name a few. Last year, however, more social science majors in combination with them like business analytics, industrial and organizational psychology were added to the list that is updated every 10 years. So Okay, the last time the CIP code was updated was last year, right?
But maybe after 10 years, when the next CIP codes were announced, or were to be announced recursive more liberal arts majors in the SETM OPT eligible CIP codes, or almost all subjects might have some sort of science towards those virtually our majors might be eligible for STEM OPT is something to see what will happen so if like more colleges join Colby College to incorporate science and humanities or science with like social studies, then literally all majors can have like science or mathematics engineering here and there. So there will be a less clear boundary when we say about STEM majors.
Lixing Li 09:31
Yeah, absolutely. Wow. So STEM might not be STEM anymore like traditional STEM might not be the traditional STEM majors anymore, added with more social science. Majors and programs will be more comprehensive to cater to the new needs of society with technology development. What kind of data are added to the AI software or chatbot database and who trains say AI or chatbot can make a huge difference?
Hanna Lee 09:56
I really like your input. So when we use AI Software, even though there are concerns that AI will substitute human beings, it will be more important to learn how to put like which information should be added into the software, and like our experience to customize the software in a way that we can use in a daily basis. So I don’t think that it’s two different things. But where humanities or social science will be a big opportunity for those majors who are programs so that they can be trained to train AI software. So that’s how I see it. But that’s something that we can ask questions to ourselves and see what majors and programs like or what will be the differences. And I do not think that there will be a clear distinction in maybe 10 years, or 20 years.
Hanna Lee 10:50
Other than this, there’s another area where AI could help my position as a student advisor and data manager, a chatbot answering students’ questions. So you might be able to relate to this. What students ask actually is not new. Yeah, right. Yes. So I always tell students that okay, this is not the first year that we run the office. So what you’re asking right now is actually the one that I sent an email to at the beginning of the semester, or it can be found on the official webpage. That’s what I often say to the students.
For example, my answer to the student who’s asking about the stem will be eligibility is actually the same as the one that I replied to, like three years ago, or five years ago, because the rule or regulations doesn’t change that often. So that being said, if they’re asking about the case, and specifics, then mobility is something that I would need to look into instead of providing general answers. So this is where AI can jump in. Microsoft is working on updating their software engine out of search engine, to be able to provide search results in a conversational way. So now when we search, we will just put the keyword and we have to go through the search research. But what Microsoft is doing is that we would ask the search engine, just like we’re talking with a human.
Let’s say what’s the STEM OPT eligibility, Bing can tell us like when is your graduation date? Or did you study in your current institution for one year? Because that’s one of the eligibility or something like that for CPT as you know. So similarly, there are already software or apps out there that can help professors to answer students’ questions using AI and AI is getting smarter and smarter every year with more data or replies from the student. And when the risk of using AI like privacy or discrimination issues is low enough for higher education institutions not only professors are also practitioners like us will be able to be benefited from these technologists to imagine that students send texts to the office number or a certain number, right?
And just like they would email us and receive conversation or style of answers, the technology can elevate the case when it needs personalized advice. So pretty common when you call the bank or when you call customer service. For this one, click 123. But if that is the level one of automated, like a phone call or the like emailing the customer service, but there will be an advanced level of customer service where it’s more like a like it’s a chatting style. So they do not escalate button one or two. But they just say what they need. And the AI or the software will say you know another chat style, so it’s more like a conversational style. That’s how I imagine. By doing so students can get the answer right away, rather than waiting for two to four business days, which is the current waiting time for my office. There are so that will be helpful for the office where they see more an increasing number of students. You will also have administrators like us to focus on the areas where he really needs our brain and expertise.
Lixing Li 14:28
That’s a great example Hanna, and I can definitely relate it to it. Many of the students ask me similar questions. I’m sure you get into the same situation. I wish there were a chatbot that could answer duplicate questions. And I used to create a FAQ list in my auto-reply when I was out of the office. So this year, yeah, so students can easily navigate the answers when I was not able to answer them in time.
However, I do think the requirements for students who asked question is higher, compared to asking a human being. I sometimes got frustrated when I was chatting with my Bank of America chatbots years ago, when, at the time the chatbots, were not very upgraded. Since that she couldn’t get me well, I often end up getting to the agent or customer associates to help me out. And I could also see some of my students who are also struggling when they were putting questions, oftentimes, I need to ask them, “Can you clarify your question? Do you want to know this? Do you mean to ask this? So I think a conversation is really helpful. And I wonder how smart a chatbot could be when people are putting confusion and questions and how sensitive the Chatbot could figure out if there might be exceptions or special scenarios that could lead to different answers. As we know, during COVID, USCIS has some special policies, and it would definitely be helpful for students to talk to human being for clarification.
Hanna Lee 16:07
Yeah, yes, yes. Very notorious for being difficult to get a hold of the human representative like I don’t even try.
Lixing Li 16:14
Now chatbox needs to be used carefully, especially when we use it for touchy issues such as mental health issues or situations where a humanitarian response is required, for example, the most recent Michigan State shooting, right students going through tough situations, ethical policy needs to be able to be developed is that conversation?
Hanna Lee 16:40
Right, definitely. So privacy and the ethical being ethical, and being sympathetic, right, like those are the things that I definitely believe that AI has room for improvement. And one thing that we need to keep in mind is that when it comes to implementing AI technology in education, is that the software or the technology should be fine-tuned. So when I talked about incorporating AI technology into education, I’m not saying let’s use what we use for the, as you said, if I could borrow your example, I think of Bank of America or you know, like even other banks to like Chase bank. Let’s use whatever they’re using right now. I’m not saying it.
But there, I can see that there is the potential that AI can be fine-tuned to not only minimize bias to all the bias to students but also to be empathetic. But again, there’s definitely what I expect from AI is not to answer all of the questions, but to screen the questions that can be answered by AI the general information, like the eligibility for such employment programs, if they have specific cases, or if that’s something will, will bind to the AI. When the student is asking about this diversity or bias report, then it should come to the step. If we find that right. We can also minimize the biased answer from the AI.
And allow me to elaborate more on the importance of being empathetic. I recently purchased insurance from Lemonade. What’s unique about the Lemonade, disclaimer, I’m not affiliated with the Lemonade, is that you download the app and provide your information to get the quotes, etc. Just like you’re chatting with someone, I didn’t feel like I am like talking to AI or nonhuman to get a quote. It’s different from filing out the paper. It does say things like “That’s great”. “No worries”. Rather than being like a robot. “Here are your options”. “Here’s the quote”, “Click here, click there”. “Click button 1-2-3”. So throughout the process, I did not feel like it. I didn’t feel like there was a chatbot that I’m working with this. This is something that could have been checked typically for an AI technology that needs to improve to be used widely. So there’s definitely room for improvement.
Lixing Li 19:18
That’s definitely good to hear that when you talk about that. Here’s your option because the quality sometimes could annoy the customer more when they’re super frustrated. Yeah, like a conversation. Back-and-forth conversation is definitely helping you a lot. I can think of my horrible experience calling some airlines. They’re just like, click yes. Say yes or no or click one or two. It is just making me so annoyed. Yeah, it’s good to hear that AI is getting more human with responses as AI technologies get upgraded and get smarter and smarter. One ethical topic we cannot avoid is the integrity issue. With AI involved in higher education, we might have heard some career services folks are using ChatGPT to assist students with editing a resume CV. And the media Guardian said that the International Baccalaureate curriculum allows students to quote contents generated by ChatGPT in their essays, and the language skills, and deficiencies could be made up by AI technology. What do you think?
Hanna Lee 20:28
I definitely think that there is a language barrier that could be minimized with ChatGPT or when it comes to writing assignments. But at the same time, when I look back at my own experience, my graduate life was like, totally difficult because I had to write- I just arrived in the US, but now I have to write graduate level of writing essays, right, like, written essays. So that was difficult. There was definitely one of the tough times but throughout the process, I learned how to write in English. Right. So I think there are two things one, yes, for international students, by using ChatGPT, they will be able to explain their thoughts on topics more freely. So before, even though they were understanding of the topic was higher than what could they really put out into the writing essays like different, but through this using by utilizing the chat, typically, they will be able to express their thoughts in a better way, right? But at the same time, it could be an opportunity for students to lose the opportunity to learn how to use or how to write in English, like how to write things in your second language. So there are two different components
Lixing Li 21:58
to the language as a tool, it’s less important than the content itself, the student is trying to convey it. Right when writing when it comes to writing assignments. This can be an evolutionary change for learning and teaching as traditional education, assessment, and measurement are challenged. As we just said, they use it to assess your language and also the content. But now with the technology involved, the whole process might be changed. It will impact on many of us in the university. We’re gonna save this part for later in the end. Let’s move to our next topic, Metaverse, and international education.
Hanna Lee 22:43
Yeah, you’re right. If we don’t stop here, we can go on and on and on. Yeah, because at the end of the day, okay, if the student doesn’t learn how to write things in their second language other than English. They can also use the ChatGPT to write another essay in their second language or English, right, so we just stop here.
Okay, moving on to the Metaverse. Metaverse is something that the US government and US employees years are actively partnering with U.S. colleges and universities. For example, around 10 US colleges and universities including South Dakota State University and Morehouse College and Florida a&m University already launched the Metaversity. “Metaversity”, quote-unquote, last fall.
This means after this term like spring 2023, there will be at least 10 universities and colleges in the US that can share experience-based insights or practices or research for future Metaverse deposits because they spent a good academic year.
In terms of how higher education is the institutions are utilizing Metaverse can be grouped into two categories. One is creating a twin campus virtually just like students walking into the classroom or tour the campus avatars, with or without labs can go into the classroom or walk around the campus. I personally think this is something that can impact International Education positively because the virtual campus would minimize the physical distance between the US and their home countries.
By navigating the metaverse between campuses, new international students will be able to check where they should go after arriving on campus and even how to get to the campus from the airport. With the Metaverse component, orientation can be very interactive and play-to-learn style, which can result in increased engagement from incoming students. When you go to orientation when you present something, they’re just they just pull into the new country. So they may still experience jetlag.
So it’s really hard to bring the content into their brain you I’m seeing but with the members, before they come to the campus, they can utilize the metaverse software, and they feel like they’re playing but learning the new academic culture and like what to know before they start their study abroad experience in the US. So it will definitely have helped the English learners to do image training for a smoother transition, and I think there will be a positive outcome of utilizing mirrors.
The other Metaverse practice is incorporating virtual reality into the classroom by allowing students to immerse themselves in the learning. For example, students will be able to see how monkey digests bananas without having to go to a zoo or animal hospital. The visual component of this practice could help international students to learn better as well compared to learning based on English text only. So again, for English learners, it will be an easier and better way to learn things. One downside of incorporating AR artificial reality or VR into the curriculum is that students need to wear a VR headset like Quest made by Meta aka Facebook. To 10 colleges and universities that I mentioned earlier do receive quest to get from meta to the metaverse a partnership unless institutions buy VR tools for students. The affordability and accessibility issues would need to be addressed to expand the usage of Metaverse in learning. Yeah,
Lixing Li 26:47
This is definitely an eye-opening experience. International students used to come to you these days heavily to gain knowledge, which means coming for degrees. Nowadays, through experience, you’re looking for more about culture or professional experience in studying abroad. What it means to study abroad in the United States is changing with technology, the recruitment strategy, the admission process, and student services. You just mentioned the orientation and the immigration advising also need to be up to date, right?
Hanna Lee 27:20
Yeah, if someone asked me would Metaversity impacts international enrollment negatively if students can attend classes in the metaverse without having to pay for the flight tickets, etc, my answer will likely be No.
It is a well-known fact that students study abroad not only to get degrees but also to get experiences and learn about different cultures. Do I doubt that the implementation of meta diversity necessarily means fewer international students on campus or not an impact of Metaverse on international education? From the compliance perspective immigration rules has to do with full-time requirements.
Per immigration regulations. International students are currently required to take the full course of study. This can be regulated as 12 credits for undergrads eight and nine credits for graduate students, and only one online course can be counted toward the full course of study. So in other words, undergraduate international students must take at least nine in-person classes, and graduate international students must take at least six in-person classes.
So with these immigration regulations in mind, keep in mind if students take Metaverse classes, would they be considered online classes? Or given that they need to wear the headset to meet the avatar version? or professor? Would it be considered that you had an in-person component, right? It’s something that needs to be addressed too that needs to be answered before more and more Metaverse or AR or VR courses are provided by post-secondary institutions because international students may come to international offices and say, “Hey, I’m taking these classes I need to go to the class or I can just use the headset. But I’m meeting the professor in the metaverse. Like is it in person or online?” “How many Metaverse classes I can take to meet the full-time requirements?” So those are the things that we can think about what could happen five or 10 years from now.
Lixing Li 29:31
And I’m sure if we want to be more beneficial to the current campus experience, we can definitely work on it. This is showing the new direction. This is great. Thank you so much again, for sharing all these great examples of artificial intelligence and metaverse in international education. I personally learned a lot from our discussion today. Um, yeah, and I have a sense of feeling that technology is not far away from our work and life. We could effectively improve our efficiency if we made utilize of them in a good way. For our next episode like Hanna just mentioned, we will continue talking about technology in higher education and how they influence our work at higher ed. Particularly, we will focus on how to stand out as student affairs professionals in the age of AI technology. Please stay tuned with us and hope to see you all next time.
Hanna Lee 30:28
Thank you for having me Lixing.
Lixing Li 30:30
Thank you, Hanna Bye, everyone.
Hanna Lee 30:32
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