Chinese university uses AI to check class attendance rates and find the reasons behind absenteeism
• Early results have been positive, with attendance rates up in the two weeks since university adopted the system
• University says main goal is to find deeper reasons behind why students miss class and categorise them accordingly to build a database
For harassed teachers and university staff struggling to keep tabs on which students have attended class, a new artificial intelligence-enabled system in China may be just what they have been looking for.
A Chinese university in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, has rolled out a class attendance system that enables students to sign in with verification codes via their mobile phones and issue auto-reminders to those who fail to show up on time, along with a warning about the risks of skipping class.
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Those who miss class receive the following message: “Hello, this is little AI, an intelligent voice assistant from the counsellors of Hangzhou Dianzi University. I notice you were absent from class today.” Any response from the student will be recorded and transcribed, for use by staff in a follow-up meeting with the student concerned, according to posts on the university homepage.
Over half of the courses at Hangzhou Dianzi University have adopted the smart attendance system, Hu Haibin, deputy director of the university students’ affairs office, told Beijing Youth Daily. “Before it would take teachers seven to eight minutes to make a roll-call, now it takes just 15 seconds,” he said.
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Early results have been positive, with attendance rates up by 7 percentage points in the two weeks since the university adopted the system compared to the previous semester, according to the report.
Hu said tracking absent students was only part of the aim – the main goal is to find the deeper reasons behind why students miss class and categorise them accordingly to build a database. University staff will also be on hand to follow up with students in person about absenteeism, said Hu in the report.
This educational innovation comes amid efforts by the world’s second-largest economy to roll out AI into all walks of life, from catching jaywalkers and saving toilet paper to bigger, commercial applications such as self-driving cars and training robots to read medical scans and detect cancers.
The country aims to create a
domestic AI industry
worth 1 trillion yuan (US$147 billion) and become a global AI powerhouse by 2030.
China has led the world in the number of patent filings in AI since 2014, followed by the US, according to the World Intellectual Property organisation. The two countries are home to the majority of heavyweight AI start-ups, accounting for 10 of the top 11 AI unicorns – private companies with a valuation of US$1 billion or above – according to a separate report by CB Insights.