Guide

Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education

Welcome to our dedicated space for educators who are looking to explore the potential of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) and how it can be useful in learning and teaching. This page introduces GenAI, how it can be used effectively with students and in your own practice and suggests useful resources on this topic. We invite you to join the discussion and share ways that you and your students have been using AI in the discussion section below.
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What is GenAI?

This animation explains what generative AI is and how it works, including its capabilities and limitations. It features a useful section on prompt engineering (writing instructions for AI chatbots) at 14:53 minutes into the video, as well as some ethical considerations regarding the use of Generative AI tools.

In short, Generative AI (GenAI) is a form of artificial intelligence that can be used to create (or generate) content, typically in the form of text, images, audio or video, with results that are very similar to those created by humans.  

Although it has exploded as a topic very recently, GenAI has its roots in the mid-2010s when major advancements were made in the field of machine learning, allowing computers to learn and extrapolate from existing information to create new content that is contextually relevant.  

Examples of GenAI tools

The recent explosion in interest in GenAI has been driven by improvements in its ease of use which have brought it within reach of everyone.  

Much of the focus has been on ChatGPT which creates text from prompts. ChatGPT developed by Open AI is just one example of a chatbot, also known as a text-to-text AI tool. Others include Google’s Gemini, Microsoft’s Copilot, Anthropic’s Claude 2 and Meta AI’s Hugging Face Llama 2 Chat. You will find that you get different outputs if you input the same prompt into different chatbots. This is because of the different ways these chatbots are trained. In addition to generating original texts, codes and tables, some chatbots, like Copilot and Claude are trained to read documents uploaded by users. There are also other GenAI tools that are specifically trained to generate and/or edit images, video, and audio. For example, text-to-image tools are DeepAI, Adobe Firefly (available in Photoshop), Midjourney AI, and AudioCraft for audio and music.

Learn more about prompting GenAI tools by watching this Tips for Effective Prompting in Generative AI Tools video.

 

What's next?

Is GenAI an Existential Threat?

The initial response from the higher education sector was driven by anxiety, with concerns about cheating and threats to academic integrity. As the debate has evolved, there has been greater consideration of the opportunities GenAI presents and a recognition that the effective use of GenAI will be a skillset all students will require in the future. 

Nevertheless, important questions remain for educators, especially regarding assessment design where approaches that seek to test content knowledge and not application are prone to the risk of GenAI. As a result, there has been renewed interest in alternative approaches such as authentic assessments and ungrading. 

How Can GenAI Enhance Student Learning Experiences?

  • Creating personalised learning materials and pathways that tailor content to meet the diverse needs and learning preferences of students. 
  • Automating administrative tasks such as lesson planning and grading, leaving more time for educators to provide personalised and timely support and feedback. 
  • Analysing student data to identify patterns and trends to inform future teaching strategies. 
  • Creating flipped learning experiences: by asking students to analyse AI-generated resources for accuracy, relevance and effectiveness, thereby increasing appreciation of AI and its limitations.

Limitations of GenAI Tools

While GenAI has immense potential, it’s also a work in progress and there are many issues that, as educators, we need to mitigate against.

  • Hallucinations are where GenAI platforms write statements that sound confident but are not necessarily backed up by reliable data.
  • Bias is a known challenge, since the data on which many GenAI platforms have been trained is predominantly white, Western, and English. As a result, some GenAI outputs, such as images of people in particular professions, reinforce common stereotypes.
  • Currency is an issue as GenAI is not connected to live sources of information like the internet but is based on data supplied at a particular point in time. For example, many GenAI platforms struggle to take account of the impact of Covid-19 as the training data predates the pandemic.
  • GenAI is often unable to cite sources, where these sources sit behind paywalls, or training data is incomplete. This can also result in misattribution of content.
  • Personal data used with GenAI can be a breach of privacy leading to individual and institutional liability.

Student Assessments and GenAI use

Assessment has been at the frontline of the battle with GenAI because of the technology’s capacity to enable cheating. But we must remember that the majority of students don’t want to cheat, but that external pressures may lead them to make poor decisions. There are things we can do to avoid this:

  • State what your AI policy is, ideally by working with students to develop a shared position.
  • Invite students to be transparent about how they have used AI and to submit a reflection as a means of getting students to engage with ethical considerations. Consider involving students in the assessment process.
  • Consider Ungrading/Grading for Growth as an alternative that reduces the pressure to cheat.
  • Change your assessment format to be more formative and authentic or to incorporate more personal reflections.
  • Use project-based assessments and grade for quality of contribution as well as quality of output.  

Useful Resources

Discussion

What are your thoughts on incorporating AI in education? What is one point of appreciation for AI and one point of apprehension that you have?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.