The University of Venda (Univen) is a South African comprehensive rural-based University, located in Thohoyandou in the Limpopo province.
Univen encompasses a digitally transformative culture that embraces innovative learning not confined to classrooms. The University is gearing its students for the fourth industrial revolution and constitutes a technology roadmap to be the first education provider in Africa to deliver an Intelligent Campus.
In addition to offering a digitally transformative learning environment that fosters economic empowerment for the South African economy, Univen also aimed to address challenges experienced at the Campus through the technology roadmap established.
As a tertiary education provider in a rural community the University experiences disruptions from outsiders coupled with unauthorised access to the campus, placing the students at risk. Student pass rates and a lack of data to address student performance also proved challenging as 99% of students received funding through government grants, rendering the allocation of funding and the success rate difficult.
To tackle the issues experienced, Univen partnered with Mint Group to utilise the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the Azure platform to enable:
- Strict student access control through facial recognition across the University;
- Student classroom attendance tracking and verification across the campus;
- Sentiment analysis within classrooms to correlate sentiment to student performance and assess the effectiveness of instructional methods;
- Content-on-demand via online channels for anywhere, anyplace education;
- Attendance tracking to relate attendance numbers to student pass rates;
- Data-driven insights on student life to guide decisions.
“Companies like Microsoft and Mint are more than prepared and excited to work with us and can see the potential for us to be a slightly different type of University to disrupt the institution space with evolving technologies that can enhance teaching and learning and, ultimately, enhance the quality of education that we produce,” – Univen DV Academic, Professor Jan Crafford.
As this was the first project of its kind on the African continent, Mint Group implemented a Pilot at the University to test the viability of the Intelligent Campus and determine whether AI would address the challenges experienced and empower the University to meet its overall objective
The Pilot was based on the Mint Vision Application – a platform that extends organisations’ existing systems and processes with highly advanced computer vision as well as face-and-voice recognition functionality.
For the hardware requirements, Mint Group partnered with human capital management provider Gijima as the hardware solutions provider and, to ensure the empowerment of local Exempted Micro-Enterprises, Mint also partnered with access management provider TAMS, which assisted with the hardware requirements.
Further driving community empowerment, Mint also hired locals in the Venda community to assist with the physical implementation of the Univen transformation project comprising construction work to enable access control.
After running the Pilot, Artificial Intelligence proved a viable solution for Univen to address the challenges experienced and meet the transformative objectives set out in the University’s roadmap.
The results from the Pilot also led to further insights, which helped the University adjust its technology roadmap for improved results.
“AI intervention will assist us with decision making that is based on data credibility, allowing much better decisions in a higher education environment where things are so fluid and fast moving, and empowering us to remain sustainable and make the impact that higher institutions should,” – Univen Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr Robert Martin.
Following a successful Pilot program of the Mint Vision Network Application at Univen, the AI system is now rolled out to the entire University as a first step towards digital transformation which will:
- Enable facial recognition and access control of 16 000 students per day;
- Monitor classrooms with up to four cameras in each class scanning student faces once every minute for classroom attendance and sentiment;
- Drop security incidences down to 0%;
- Enable improved allocation of staff;
- Reveal data-driven insights that can serve as the basis for future roadmap strategies, such as predictive drop-out detection etc. which will further increase pass rates and assist with government grant allocation;
- Establish the University as a leader in the field of Intelligent Education;
- Empower communities surrounding the University.
Watch the Univen Transformation Video here: