The Quick Report

This University is Enrolling Nonhuman AI Students

In This Article…

• A Michigan University plans to enroll a pair of AI-powered “students” to enroll in classes.
• The school wants the AI students to acquire an undergraduate degree and potentially graduate degrees, even pursuing a PhD. 
• Researchers want to see what AI students learned and what the school learned from them.

Artist depiction of an AI college student

Michigan University to Enroll 2 Nonhuman AI Students

In a novel experiment led by associate professor Kasey Thompson, Ferris State University in Michigan plans to enroll a pair of nonhuman, artificial intelligence (AI) freshman “students” in classes alongside humans, MLive reported.

It might seem like a concept out of a sci-fi movie, but as AI technology evolves rapidly, the idea of AI students is not as futuristic as it sounds.

“It feels so futuristic, but it’s actually, you know, now,” Thompson said, “There’s nothing necessarily futuristic about it.”

Ferris State University will be the first educational facility in the country to enroll virtual students to participate in lessons and assignments. The University has given these two AI-powered students nicknames, dubbing them Ann and Fry, respectively.

These AI students won’t be robots. Instead, they will simply be interacting with the class and other students through the use of microphones, speakers, and computers, Futurism reported.

Ann and Fry will participate just like any other human student. Using electronic devices, these AI students will listen to lessons, participate in two-way classroom discussions with other students, and turn in assignments.

What Is an AI Student?

These students will not be human students using AI assistance. Nor will they be robots. They won’t be roaming the halls or hanging out in the cafeteria.


Watch the latest episode of 'A Swift Look' with host Zoe J!

Instead, through the use of computer systems and other electronic hardware, the AI students will use artificial intelligence to simulate human intelligence. Through this insight, the AI students will be able to recognize speech, analyze images, perform tasks, and make decisions.

Formulating a Backstory

The two AI students will be given some “help” in forming their identities. While they won’t be given any demographic or gender information, they will be given their own backstories. These are necessary to help the two AI students complete certain tasks, such as declaring a major, the university said in a press release.

AI Students Will Make Their Own Decisions

Also, similar to human students, Ann and Fry will be allowed to choose their own classes. They’ll also elect their own major. Eventually, these AI students can earn their undergraduate degree if they choose to do so.

Professor Thompson and the researchers are leaving it up to Ann and Fry to plot the course of their educational experience and destiny.

“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 told The Grand Rapids Press. “But we are literally learning as we go, and we’re allowing the two AI students to pick the courses that they’re going to take. We’re in general courses at this point, but hopefully, they will complete their undergraduate degree and even graduate degrees and even further than that.”

Read More: The Bizarre and Unhealthy World of AI Girlfriends

What’s the Point of AI Students?

The University’s mission is to better understand what the student experience is like today. 

This comes as a result of higher education evolving significantly in recent years. More and more students are taking the “nontraditional route.” This includes taking classes remotely or delaying going to college for several years. 

The researchers plan to monitor the daily experience of Ann and Fry to understand what being a student today is like. They want to see how it feels to be a freshman in a new school, from admission and registration to class participation.

“We actually came up with the idea to help us better understand, how do we serve the future students at Ferris State University?” Thompson said “What does the higher educational experience look like for students who may not just be 10 feet from the professor in a traditional classroom setting? That was really sort of the impetus, what started it all.”

Read More: 9 Careers in AI and How to Land Them

About Ferris State’s Artificial Intelligence Program

Ferris State University is one of only three AI undergraduate programs in the United States and the only AI bachelor’s program in Michigan. Ferris State’s program has close ties to industry and government partners. Among their partners are the Department of Defense, National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Amazon Web Services, and many Michigan companies.

Ferris State programs prepare students for career opportunities in artificial intelligence, which currently has over 800,000 job openings in the US and is projected to reach 2 million by 2026. Ferris State also prepares students for cybersecurity, which has more than 750,000 job openings nationwide.