Dartmouth Business School Says Digitizing Campus Life Extends Beyond Academics

Higher education has shifted from its traditional roots, with universities and colleges adapting and embracing digital tools and technologies to enhance the campus experience and meet the changing needs of today’s tech-savvy students.

It’s a transformation happening at universities and colleges across the U.S., including at Dartmouth College, where the recent deployment of AI self-checkout kiosks at the Tuck School of Business’ dining facility is saving students and employees valuable time.

In fact, students using the Ivy League dining facility can now complete transactions in seconds, reducing labor waste, according to Steve Lubrano, head of Campus Development, and Amelia Heidenreich, general manager of Tuck Dining and Catering.

“On the manager’s side, the Mashgin operating system is so much easier and so much less clunky than our legacy system, which was web-based,” Heidenreich told PYMNTS in an interview. “Supervisors can program items right into the kiosk themselves with just a few taps on the tablet, whereas with our legacy system we had to dial into a server and to go to multiple different screens just to enter one item.”

Heidenreich added that the adoption of these digital solutions enables the reallocation of human resources from transactional tasks toward more engaging, personalized and meaningful student interactions, enhancing the student experience.

However, navigating such significant changes undoubtedly presents challenges, especially within established educational communities. It’s the reason why Lubrano said thoughtful consideration in transitioning from established practices to innovative ideas will be key to a greater acceptance and integration of new technologies. 

Overall, Lubrano emphasized the value of human interaction within educational settings, asserting that while digital transformation is imperative, it must complement rather than replace interpersonal connections: “There’s something about human interaction in a learning environment that we don’t want to lose. The challenge is to augment that with digital transformation.”

Designing the Campus of the Future

According to Lubrano, a future where technology and digital tools enhance various facets of campus life, from academic support to student engagement, is already within reach, with some faculty exploring academic advising chatbots to provide round-the-clock support for students’ academic needs. 

He also highlighted the ongoing implementation of virtual reality-based teaching methods as another promising avenue for immersive learning experiences. These innovations provide students with firsthand experiences of the conditions shaping lives in distant, remote, developing countries, all from the comfort of the classroom.

“Virtual reality [offers] a much more compelling environment for our faculty members to teach in,” Lubrano said, adding that the ability to blend in-person teaching with online experiences will continue to create richer and more interesting educational experiences.

He also anticipated a future where technological advancements will extend beyond academics, positively impacting everyday campus tasks like parking. For example, he envisioned the implementation of geo-tagging apps to streamline parking, enhancing overall campus mobility and satisfaction.

“If we can [improve] how people get to campus, they’ll be much happier when they get here and they’ll end up spending more time on campus,” he said. 

Finally, Lubrano shared his vision for the future connected campus: Students arrive and park easily with RFID tags, using an app to find spaces. They grab their coffee and bagel using a Mashgin system. In class, attendance is taken automatically, and assignments are submitted digitally in advance. Then they engage in a virtual reality session with students and faculty in India or China, while interacting with faculty live in class.

Although the idea of these changes becoming mainstream might seem distant, Lubrano believes it’s closer than we realize: “We have a very interesting future ahead. What we might have thought would take 50 years would actually happen in just 10.”

Read more: Columbia Business School Professor Says Academia’s Embrace of ChatGPT Can Do More Good Than Harm