Wayne State University in Detroit has launched DetroitEd411, a public information service that provides free, 24/7 access to resources about post-secondary education opportunities via Facebook Messenger.
The platform will provide guidance and resources addressing all tracks of education, including vocational training, GED opportunities, community colleges, and four-year institutions. The service is the result of a broader collaborative between WSU and the Detroit Regional Chamber to support adult learners and improve college attainment and career readiness in Detroit.
The city was recently named a Talent Hub by the Lumina Foundation and The Kresge Foundation in Troy. The national designation recognizes cities that meet standards for creating environments that attract, retain, and cultivate talent among students.
“As we continue shifting to a knowledge-based economy, there’s an increasing demand for workers with an education beyond high school,” says Keith Whitfield, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at WSU. “We’re working to ensure that all people in Detroit — no matter where they are on their educational pathway — have equal access to resources that have the ability to change their lives. We want to ensure everyone is prepared to succeed and to positively impact our community.”
To access the service, users will send messages to Spirit, named after the Spirit of Detroit. It is equipped to answer questions about everything from financial aid to housing and childcare. Anyone can use the platform, but it is designed to assist people in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.
WSU created DetroitEd411 after receiving a Collaborative Opportunity Grant from the Coalition of Urban-Serving Universities in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
“The Detroit411 project stands out as an innovative approach that is part of a broader sea of change we’re seeing in higher education,” says Shannon Looney, deputy director of urban initiatives for the association. “WSU’s partnership with the chamber uniquely leverages both existing relationships and emerging technologies to better serve all types of students. Detroit411 could serve as a national model for other programs as more institutions seek to strengthen their community outreach strategies.”
Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, DetroitEd411’s database will grow, and Spirit will learn more about users’ needs as people engage.
“One of the best things about using this adaptive technology is that we’re able to meet people wherever they are and answer questions in real time, without judgment,” says Dawn Medley, vice president of enrollment management at WSU. “The amount of information Spirit is able to provide is limitless, and the database of answers and resources will only continue to grow, adapt, and expand as more people take advantage of DetroitEd411.”
Spirit and more information about DetroitEd411 are available on the DetroitEd411 Facebook page. Spirit is powered by education-tech startup AdmitHub.