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Chinese university uses AI technology to call absent students

(People's Daily Online)    16:55, March 15, 2019

Sign-in page of the AI system (Photo/Beijing Youth Daily)

"Hello! This is Little AI, the intelligent voice assistant of the university counselors. I noticed that you were absent from class today." Absent students from Hangzhou Dianzi University, in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, recently started to receive this call. The moment their number is dialed, the student’s information is also recorded and transmitted to the counselor.

This technology has amazed Chinese netizens, with many noting that it would no longer be so easy for university students to skip classes.

Following the installation of surveillance cameras and fingerprint attendance systems, AI is the next step for many Chinese universities. The result in Hangzhou Dianzi University is visible, with many students confirming attendance is notably higher.

Hu Haibin, deputy director of the university students’ affairs office, told Beijing Youth Daily that a lecturer is able to use the AI smart app at any time. Announcing a randomly generated verification code to the class, all students must input the verification code on their smartphone in a set amount of time.

“The response time is only 36 seconds, and the teacher can manually reduce that time. Although it is not possible to eliminate cheating altogether, we have reduced the possibility to a minimum through manual intervention,” Hu said.

Hu added that if a student makes it to class after receiving an AI call, the teacher can modify their attendance information. "Presently, this app has covered more than 50 percent of our courses. Previously, it took a teacher about seven to eight minutes to call absentees, but now the whole process can be completed in 15 seconds. After two weeks of operation, the average attendance rate of the same class has increased by 7 percent compared with the previous semester,” he said.

If students do not complete sign-ins as required, the school counselor will receive their information as well. “Even if the student attempts to escape the 'Little AI' call by changing his or her phone number, the absentee record still exists. Then, the counselor will contact the student directly and ask for the reason. Later, the system will complete the statistic analysis and give feedback to the counselor again. The counselors and teachers will conduct academic guidance or psychological counseling for students with personal issues.

Netizens were impressed by the AI call technology, but Hu believes that this is by no means the most important part of the whole system. "It just completes the accumulation of big data and provides a basis for the teachers to work with," Hu noted.

“Through the big data summary, we can classify student issues, find the real reason for an individual's unwillingness to attend classes, and then guide them to tackle the problem, which is the greatest significance of our development and use of this intelligent system." 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Sheng Chuyi, Bianji)

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