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AI 'students' join human classmates at Ferris State University
Wed, 17th Jan 2024

The classrooms of Ferris State University in Michigan, USA, are set to welcome two unusual freshers. 'Students' Ann and Fry are artificial intelligence (AI) devices that will enrol in classes alongside their human counterparts. The experiment, led by Associate Professor Kasey Thompson, will see the AIs scanning through lectures, completing assignments and even taking part in discussions with other students.

These innovative students differ from the typical first-year as they do not have humanoid robot bodies as we might expect. Instead, they will interact through computers, microphones, and speakers. Their unusual enrolment was announced during the University's AI Day last month, with the goal of researching the impact of emerging artificial intelligence technology. The plan is to examine the practicality and potential applications of AI in educational and career pathways.

This experiment is essentially the University's way of daring the powerful evolution of AI. Thompson explained that the two AI students have been given the liberty to decide their areas of focus. "Like any student, our hope is that they continue their educational experience all the way up as far as they can go, through their PhD," Thompson said. "But we are literally learning as we go, and were allowing the two AI students to pick the courses that they are going to take."

At present, Ann and Fry are in general courses, but the idea is for their learning journey to extend to undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees and potentially further. The AIs will scan, listen in, and participate in lectures and discussions via microphone and computer systems. With time, the aim is for them to contribute and provide feedback in active conversations.

"We actually came up with the idea to help us better understand how we serve the future students at Ferris State University?" Thompson disclosed in her interview. To this effect, researchers will be analysing data collected from Ann and Fry's interactions and learnings to determine the insights they gained and what the institution itself gained from them.

Ferris State University is a public university located in Big Rapids, Michigan, United States. It was founded in 1884 as a small school dedicated to industrial education. Over the years, it has evolved and expanded its academic offerings.

Ferris State University offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in various fields, including business, health sciences, engineering, education, arts and sciences, technology, and more. The University is known for its strong emphasis on practical, hands-on learning experiences, often incorporating internships and co-op programs to prepare students for real-world careers. 

Now, the effectiveness of this unique approach to education and the implications it holds for future AI involvement in academic environments will be explored through this ambitious development at Ferris State University. Whether or not the journey of the AIs and their subsequent achievements will be sufficient to land them a theoretical job remains an intriguing prospect, making this a fascinating voyage of discovery.