New AI tool could send digital doppelgangers to class

New AI software could enable avatars to be attending your next class in place of students – raising the stakes in how AI can be used and should be regulated in higher education.

The new live-streaming avatars from a platform called Hey Gen  (you may know them for being able to produce your AI avatar clone, with voice replication and all) offer the opportunity to send a life-like reproduction of yourself to tutorials, lectures or online meetings, with the potential to take notes or even answer questions on your behalf.

These live streaming avatars combine “innovations in AI, computer vision, and speech synthesis” so that they can respond not only in real time, but to both verbal and non-verbal cues.

Apart from the shock and awe and “that’s kind of creepy/funny/cool” thoughts that this new development evokes, it also has big implications for academia and the experience of teaching and learning. 

There are a number of major implications this kind of technology has for higher education:

  1. Preserving Academic Integrity

With students potentially attending classes or giving presentations via avatars, how do we uphold the sanctity of personal effort and academic honesty? The ability of avatars to replicate individuals poses new challenges for validation and assessment. Universities must strategise now to maintain the authenticity of the educational experience. Class attendance suddenly becomes a more complex metric to assess.

  • Inclusivity and Accessibility

On the flip side, live-streaming avatars could offer new avenues to improve and support inclusivity. For students grappling with social anxiety, an avatar offers an alternative means of participation. It’s a chance to engage without the paralysing pressure that physical presence can sometimes bring.

  • 24/7 Academic Support

Academics are overworked, and we often don’t have the resources to provide our students with the support we want. I can’t be the only one that’s found an email from a student asking for assistance that’s now 8 weeks old. Imagine a world where lecturers are available around the clock, not in person, but through their AI counterparts. These avatars, trained on course material, could provide assistance at any hour, offering students a familiar face and voice for support—forever changing the model of ‘office hours’.

  • The Revenue Challenge

As smaller organisations could potentially produce vast educational content with unique avatar instructors, universities face a pressing question: How do they stay relevant and protect their revenue? This isn’t a distant future—it’s an imminent reality.

Strategic responses can’t wait

With the rapid emergence of new technologies such as Hey Gen’s avatars, universities need to be more agile than ever, crafting innovative strategies today to stay at the forefront of educational delivery and engagement tomorrow. 

This isn’t about reacting to change; it’s about leading it – or at least adapting to it in a timely manner. 

Universities need to look at harnessing the potential of AI to enhance the academic experience without compromising the values that have long been the foundation of higher education. 

University staff also need to accept that they won’t be across everything – and right now, many staff won’t be across nearly as many AI hacks and shortcuts as their students. Atthe time of writing this (5th Feb), there are11,714 AI tools for 16,604 tasks – but it is vital to start examining how to adapt, and develop policies flexible enough to accept the reality of rapid-fire AI evolution.

Dr Nici Sweaney worked as a lecturer for more than a decade before moving into advising on HE systems and AI implementation. She has trained more than 1,000 people in the use of AI, in businesses and organisations across Australia and her company, AI Her Way has partnered with Twig Marketing to work in AI in HE, through the AICollab.



Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Subscribe to us to always stay in touch with us and get latest news, insights, jobs and events!