an AI brain

4 ways we can start using AI in higher ed to humanize teaching

Robots will not be taking over teaching; instead, educators can harness AI to improve their craft

Artificial intelligence (AI) has fascinating implications for instruction, and some educators are already using AI in higher ed to humanize teaching.

“We hear that AI will take away faculty—AI is, in fact, going to supplement the work we already do,” said Jennifer Sparrow, senior director of teaching and learning with technology at Penn State. In that role, she focuses on innovation and technology-enhanced teaching and learning.

Last fall, during EDUCAUSE 2018, Sparrow, along with Kyle Bowen, director of innovation for teaching and learning with technology, shared how we can use AI in higher ed to help with teaching from different points of view, including ideation, design, assessment, facilitation, and reflection.

“We see [teaching] as a key area where AI can have influence. It changes how we think about supporting or empowering our teachers,” Bowen said.

Related: Is AI a game-changer for higher ed?

Sparrow compared using AI tools in teaching to the way a jazz band interacts—as one instrument winds down, another picks up, much like different AI tools function for different instructional needs.

“The idea is that we grow together, build on ideas, and we come to a better result,” she said.

1. Using AI for ideation

An AI tool can be taught to focus on certain facts or aspects of a larger idea to help educators target specific concepts.

Using Eureka!, a tool built at Penn State, educators can start with a search for a concept. Eureka! returns results, and educators select the results that best reflect the ideas they want to highlight within that concept. This teaches Eureka! to refine its original definition of the idea, leading to streamlined results and more relevant information for the instructor.

“In this case, you’re working with a machine to teach it what you mean by that terms, within the scope of what you’re teaching,” Bowen said. “Even though our faculty are scholars and experts in their given topics, Eureka! always uncovers something new.”

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Laura Ascione

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