Unlocking the potential of AI in higher education

As artificial intelligence (AI) advances, it is essential to understand its potential implications for higher education. AI can automate repetitive tasks, make decisions based on data analysis and improve over time. However, AI does not replace human skills such as emotional intelligence, adaptability and dealing with ambiguous situations.

It is crucial to leverage AI in higher education to improve learning outcomes and enhance the overall learning experience for students. AI can assist in personalised learning, grading and feedback, providing insights into student behaviour and engagement.

It is also important to consider the ethical implications of AI in higher education, such as data privacy, bias and transparency. AI can unlock the potential of higher education, but it requires a thoughtful approach to implementation and consideration of its limitations.

The future of work

The debate around the impact of technology on the labour market continues, with some predicting that automated services will replace most current jobs. In contrast, others argue that new technologies will also create new jobs, effectively balancing out the job market.

While some blue-collar jobs are already being affected by automation, there is still a demand for interpersonal jobs that require social awareness, humanistic competencies and human dexterity.

Byron Reese, the author of The Fourth Age, highlights the unique qualities of humans compared to both animals and machines, and argues that there will always be employment opportunities that require human intervention and abilities beyond the capabilities of robots.

As such, it is important to consider the potential impact of technology on the labour market and to identify ways to adapt and prepare for the future of work.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) has numerous applications beyond healthcare and can be leveraged to improve various aspects of our lives.

Smart cities, for example, can use IoT sensors to manage traffic flow and optimise energy usage. In agriculture, IoT can monitor crop health and improve efficiency. Retailers can use IoT to track inventory and create personalised customer shopping experiences.

Educational institutions can use IoT to create smart campuses that enhance student experiences and operational efficiency. With the increasing availability of 5G networks and the growth of the Internet of Things industry, we can expect to see even more innovative applications of IoT in the future.

Ethics and AI

The development of ethical principles and regulations for AI is a crucial area of focus in today’s rapidly advancing technological landscape.

The principles outlined by computer scientist Stuart Russell are important guidelines for designing AI systems that prioritise human preferences and remain in a direct learning relationship with humans. However, issues have already arisen with using AI in law enforcement, highlighting the importance of ensuring fairness and accuracy in these systems.

Applying artificial swarm intelligence, as proposed by Lynn Metcalf et al, is an interesting approach to improving decision-making and avoiding biases in business contexts. The six-step model for using AI to enhance marketing decision-making, presented by Gijs Overgoor et al, also provides a useful framework for businesses to leverage AI tools effectively.

However, the regulation of AI remains a challenging area. It may be necessary to establish universally accepted standards for training and testing AI algorithms and a form of warranty to ensure their safety and reliability. The responsibility of businesses for errors in their algorithms and the ethical obligations of AI engineers must also be considered.

The development of the social credit system in China and the ban on facial recognition technology in San Francisco illustrate the divergent approaches taken in different regions towards the use of AI and the balance between economic growth and personal privacy concerns.

International coordination in regulation will be necessary to address AI’s unique ethical, legal and philosophical challenges. Higher education must play a key role in addressing these challenges by educating future AI professionals on the importance of ethical considerations in AI development and application.

Use of AI in higher education

Artificial intelligence is increasingly important in higher education. It provides personalised learning experiences, automates grading and creates virtual learning environments. AI can also help educators gain insights into student behaviour and performance, allowing them to tailor instruction and support for each student.

Research by Forrester suggests that robots will automate tedious and repetitive parts of jobs, freeing up workers to focus on more meaningful tasks. Traditional publishers of software such as Pearson’s MyLab complements in-class and online learning, providing simulations, videos, quizzes and other resources to enrich the student experience.

One of the most significant advantages of AI in education is its ability to provide personalised learning experiences. AI technologies such as natural language processing, deep learning and machine learning enable students to access educational materials more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

AI can also create personalised learning pathways and provide tailored feedback, allowing students to learn at their own pace and style. This can revolutionise how we think about teaching and learning, as educators can customise coaching to the individual needs of each student.

Another advantage of AI in education is its ability to automate grading. AI algorithms can provide more accurate and timely feedback than human graders, freeing educators to focus on delivering a more personalised learning experience.

AI can also create virtual learning environments that are more engaging and immersive than traditional classrooms. These environments can increase student engagement and motivation and support collaborative learning.

AI is also used in Student Information Systems to provide detailed attrition risk analysis. By modelling attrition and predicting which students are at risk based on grades, attendance, behaviour and other factors, AI can help educators intervene at the right time for each student to support graduation.

While there are some humorous aspects to the use of AI in education, such as the use of content-spinning software, the benefits of AI are clear. Implementing virtual agent AI to support students and staff at higher education institutions can lead to a significant increase in reported satisfaction.

Overall, AI has the potential to revolutionise how education is delivered and received, providing students with unprecedented access to educational materials, personalised guidance and feedback and more engaging and immersive learning environments.

Generative artificial intelligence

The emergence of generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT has disrupted academic institutions, particularly in middle and high schools. The concern about cheating has led some public school systems to ban the use of the tool on school wifi networks and devices, while colleges and universities have been more hesitant to do so.

However, higher education institutions have been forced to revamp how they teach and assess due to the availability of AI writing bots. Some educators are redesigning their courses by incorporating more oral exams, group work and handwritten assessments, while others plan to incorporate ChatGPT into lessons by asking students to evaluate the chatbot’s responses.

The emergence of GPT-4, a better version of ChatGPT, and the development of rival chatbots by Google and Microsoft have made generative AI tools a priority in conversations around academic integrity.

Task forces are being formed, comprehensive discussions are being held and academic integrity policies are being revised to include generative AI in their plagiarism definitions. Some professors and universities plan to use detectors to root out the misuse of AI tools.

Teaching in the AI age means getting creative

The rise of AI-powered text-generating tools like ChatGPT has undoubtedly disrupted the traditional academic landscape. Still, it is important to remember that these tools are not designed to replace human intelligence. Instead, they are meant to augment our capabilities and make our lives easier.

There are concerns regarding academic integrity and the potential misuse of such tools. However, it is important to acknowledge the positive aspects of AI-generated content, such as faster knowledge co-production, equal opportunities for learning and the potential to reduce academic dishonesty.

Ultimately, it is up to educators and academic institutions to embrace this technology and find ways to integrate it into their teaching methods while also maintaining academic standards and ensuring academic integrity. With careful consideration and proper guidance, AI-powered text-generating tools like ChatGPT can be powerful for students and educators alike.

Charting a new landscape

Rather than banning or rejecting artificial intelligence, educators and institutions should embrace it and recognise its potential for improving education. AI can make teaching more efficient, provide personalised feedback to students and open up new avenues of learning. However, it’s also essential to ensure that the use of AI in education is responsible and does not replace critical thinking, creativity and human imagination.

Crafting policies and guidelines for using AI tools in the classroom is crucial, and educators need to revise these policies as technology advances continually. It is also important to create assessments tailored to the new classroom environment and to emphasise critical thinking and creativity, as these skills are essential for success in the 21st century.

Overall, the use of AI in education presents both challenges and opportunities, and it is up to educators to navigate this new landscape thoughtfully and responsibly. By doing so, we can ensure that AI tools like ChatGPT are used to facilitate learning and scholarship rather than undermine it.

Maher Ghalayini is the associate vice president academic at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Ghalayini has more than 18 years of experience in higher education as a learning facilitator and administrator in the Ontario college and university system. Throughout his career, he has focused on developing educational settings that foster success for learners from diverse backgrounds. He holds a Doctor of Education degree from Northeastern University, an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, an LLM from York University and a BS in Management from the University of South Florida in the United States.