Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

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  • David Willows

Alexa, What is the Future of School Admissions?

A colleague from another school called me this week. Before she hung up, she asked me about my views on the future of school admissions.

At first, I wasn't entirely sure what to say. So I decided to reflect some more.

I found myself thinking about the way Google had demonstrated the new Google Assistant just a few days ago. We have reached the point, it seems, where an AI helper appears to have the capability to read emotional responses and deal with complex, unpredictable scenarios.

Turning to Facebook, I noticed that a colleague in Romania had just interviewed Sophia, an AI robot that is also now a citizen of Saudi Arabia. And then, just before I turned off for the night, I stumbled upon a piece in the Harvard Business Review entitled Marketing in The Age of Alexa.

AI: We are entering a new age of machine learning.

The integration of AI into the work of admissions is not entirely new. At the International School of Brussels, we are already beginning to think about how Alexa and similar assistants can support families to access information and perform simple actions such as book appointments or find directions.

So where is this all taking us and what is the far future of our profession?

I would argue that the answer about tomorrow depends upon how we frame our role today.

In the first scenario, we continue to frame what we do in terms of information. We associate admissions with verbs like "show" and "tell". In this scenario, there is no doubt in my mind that Alexa and her machine-colleagues will prove themselves to be more effective enrolment managers than we are. They will access and provide information with greater accuracy; they will process applications immediately; and families will have their decision in an instant. In this scenario, all of our jobs are at risk. Seriously.

In the second scenario, we still hand over the future of information processing to the machines, but we redefine our role as storytellers, artists, connectors, experience architects, and educators. In short, we embrace a future in which we start doing what we humans do best.

The problem I foresee, however, is that if we wait too long to define these new roles, we will lose the opportunity for ever.

Thinking about all these things, I asked Alexa what she felt was the future of school admissions.

For now, her answer was unclear. But I'm guessing her silence won't last forever.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash