At the announcement of the Digital Intelligence in Education project by Minister Jean-François Roberge a few weeks ago, the Centre de services scolaires au Cœur-des-Vallées was given as an example of how to use artificial intelligence. To find out more, we spoke with the director general of the CSS, Daniel Bellemare.
"When students are regularly absent, we follow up after the fact. We wondered what difference it would make if we could intervene before the absences occurred. As a school organization, we have a lot of data about students. However, we don't have the expertise to process all of that information and too often we act on a case-by-case basis."
This realization was the starting point for a project using artificial intelligence at CSS au Coeur-des-Vallées. The organization called on an expert in data analysis to develop an algorithmic model. This model takes into account a host of information already present in the computer systems: academic results, deviations from the general average, absences, repetition (or not), number of respondents for the student, number of memos in the file and content of these memos, etc.
Better organize student services
"By cross-referencing all of this data, we are able to predict who the at-risk students are in 80 % of the cases for students in 1st high school. We can assume that predictions will become more accurate as students move through high school," says Bellemare.
The data is recorded by school and presented in a dashboard format. Principals receive an email summary each Monday. Each school sees information about its school and the average for the HSC, so it can see how it compares to others. "School services can be better organized around at-risk students. For example, the dialogue can be opened up more quickly with the family."
Of course, recorded data doesn't explain everything, but it does become a decision-making tool. "They can draw our attention to situations or contexts that we wouldn't have seen otherwise."
Other uses to come
Mr. Bellemare is convinced: "Artificial intelligence helps our teams to direct their actions, to take action based on real numbers. He already sees other opportunities to push the use of AI further in his organization. Among other things, the high school dashboards will be deployed in vocational training and general adult education.
Other dashboards could be developed to provide a portrait of human resources on line (absenteeism rate, staff status, etc.). Bellemare believes in the potential: "Imagine if we could make connections between staff turnover in a school and student academic performance. We could direct more complementary resources to that school."