As AI continues to make its presence known in higher education, what are higher-ed leaders and instructors saying about it?

What does higher ed think about AI?

As AI continues to make its presence known in higher education, higher-ed leaders and instructors are weighing in

Key points:

While AI itself isn’t new, it has made waves in education in the past year as its potential–and its pitfalls–drew enthusiasm and concern from educators.

On one hand, today’s students will need to be AI-literate and know how to use AI skills in the workforce. On the other, many educators are worried about AI plagiarism and about students relying too heavily on generative AI tools.

Here’s what some educators are saying about AI’s place today–and where it might lead higher education:

“Faculty can continue teaching and assessing as they have been–leaving both their students and their colleges responsible for the direct and indirect consequences of potential academic misconduct–or they can embrace digital disruption alongside their learners in pursuit of the maturation of their online classrooms,” said Jordan O’Connell, an instructional designer and online instructor at Northeast Iowa Community College. “Our understanding of what online learning is, how it is accomplished, and how it is assessed must now adapt to the age of AI. Oral assessment of student learning has waned in popularity in recent decades. Asking undergraduate students to record and submit their responses in the digital learning environment, while novel, would simultaneously foster new kinds of active learning in the online classroom and address the growing threat of so-called AI-giarism head-on. By embracing the disruption of generative AI and encouraging students to represent their knowledge authentically, educators can facilitate a higher level of student ownership and engagement in the online learning process.”

“Integrating AI in higher education should extend beyond its use as a technological tool to include critical discussions about its ethical implications. Universities must foster environments where students can engage with AI’s potential and risks,” wrote Dr. John Johnston, an educator with a Ph.D. in Management and Technology from Walden University and an ongoing Ph.D. candidacy in Educational Leadership at Capella University. “This involves academic discussions and practical initiatives, such as developing campus policies on AI use and contributing to broader regulatory debates. Moreover, to fully embrace AI’s potential, universities must invest in developing curricula that incorporate AI not just as a subject but as a fundamental learning tool. Imagine AI simulating complex scientific processes or providing nuanced feedback on creative writing. This integration should be aligned with a focus on digital literacy and critical thinking, equipping students to utilize AI ethically and effectively.”

At Colorado State University, Joseph Brown, the university’s director of academic integrity, put together an AI survival resource to help faculty members address the use of AI in classrooms and help them set guidelines around how students are–and are not–expected to use AI. “What we need to do is figure out how we can coexist with this technology without losing the core value of academic integrity,” he said in an August 2023 article.

“AI is not a device that can be banned, it is not a source that students can be instructed not to use, and its use cannot be discovered with crude plagiarism detection tools. This new technology will be difficult to avoid,” wrote Georgia Southern University’s Charles Hodges and Ceren Ocak in an EDUCAUSE article. Their piece explores the two sides of generative AI and its implications for higher education–AI is a skill students will need to master, but maintaining academic integrity is also essential. This begs the question: How does higher-ed help guide students in the use of AI?

As higher education leaders and faculty grapple with myriad questions surrounding AI’s role in teaching and learning, it’s important to note that there are no established best practices and policies around the issue yet. “This means faculty today are the pioneers in developing those methods,” wrote Lisa Burgess, Assistant Director for the Center for Teaching & Learning at Boston University, in a post about AI’s place in classrooms.

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Laura Ascione

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