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How Georgia State University Uses Technology to Achieve Zero Equity Gap

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Georgia State University is a large research university located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. With 50,000 undergraduates and graduate students, their strategic experiments in using technology to improve student outcomes have the potential for massive results. And positive results are exactly what they have seen. 

Over the past decade, as university leadership has engaged a variety of educational technologies, they have seen increased engagement, better resource utilization, and most importantly, zero equity gaps based on race, ethnicity, or income. These results are meaningful for any organization eager to explore the untapped benefits of technology for their student population.

To learn more about Georgia State University and their success with educational technology, we spoke with Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown, Senior VP for Student Success and Chief Enrollment Officer at GSU. Her perspective was invaluable to us, and if you’d like to learn more from her and the other experts we consulted with during that event, you can watch the full recording of the webinar here.

What Makes Georgia State Special

Georgia State is unique in its combination of size, location and student population. Located in the center of Atlanta, students at GSU are well positioned to take advantage of internship and job opportunities in the city. GSU has a large student community, with 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. 

Perhaps most compelling, though, is the fact that Georgia State boasts an undergraduate population that is 80% underrepresented students— first generation college students, students of color, and more. 60% of their students are low-income.

By utilizing technology designed to increase student resource utilization and improve student outcomes, GSU has created a classroom environment with no equity gap between students of different groups. This is virtually unheard of in higher education and we have a great deal to learn from their success story.

Using Technology to Improve Resource Utilization

Answering Student Questions (in Real Time)

Georgia State created an AI-powered chatbot (which they call Pounce, in honor of their mascot Pounce the Panther) that answers student questions in real time. Most students can be answered almost instantly by the chatbot; more complicated questions are directly to school administrators.

In the first year they debuted the chatbot, Pounce exchanged over 200,000 messages with students. Dr. Calhoun-Brown also shared that the chatbot was also far more busy at midnight than it was at 2pm. Clearly, this technology serves an important purpose for students, by answering their questions immediately and (critically) at a time when no administrators or counselors are available to help.

Nudging Students Toward Help-Seeking Behaviors

GSU also used Pounce to nudge students toward keystone behaviors, such as paying an outstanding balance or registering for classes. By customizing the messages and keeping things brief and casual, GSU kept their opt-out rate low and avoided turning the chatbot into a second email.

On-Demand Tutoring

Administrators saw the late-night usage of the chatbot and noted the need for on-demand resources that are flexible enough to suit students’ varied schedules. To meet this need they partnered with Knack to provide on-demand peer tutoring for a diverse array of classes. Knack trains student tutors and handles the scheduling and administration of tutoring, while allowing universities to retain control of tutor qualifications and wages.

Educationally Purposeful Peer Interactions

Educationally Purposeful Peer Interactions (or EPPIs), as coined by Dr. George Kuh, are some of the most impactful actions students take in their academic career. Research has shown that interactions that involve a student’s peers, such as peer tutoring, mentorship, club participation, interactive seminars and group projects provide them with critical support, motivation and community. In short, EPPIs keep students engaged, give them a community to rely on for support, and connect them with institutional knowledge they may otherwise not have access to.

One reason Georgia State has been so successful in their implementation of technology is their emphasis on connecting technology to EPPIs. On-demand tutoring increases student participation in peer tutoring services, which connects them to an academic support system. Pounce serves as a peer figure, with its casual tone, immediate response, and text-style messaging system. Likewise, Pounce guides students to take advantage of peer support by nudging them towards relevant resources.

Want to learn more about how Georgia State University leveraged technology to close the equity gap for students? Watch the webinar recording now: