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How Faculty and Admins Can Prepare to Be Part of the AI Movement 

We’re on the precipice of a revolution that will change our field in ways we don’t even understand yet. One thing that’s clear to me, however, is that educators need to be more open to trying out AI in a safe way.

Dr Cristi Ford
Dr. Cristi Ford

Vice President, Academic Affairs

When ChatGPT stormed into the spotlight last year, faculty and administrators were forced to think carefully about another innovation poised to disrupt their field. Should they ban it on campuses? Could they use it as a learning tool? Were there ways to responsibly consider artificial intelligence while understanding the ethical issues? These and many more questions were top of mind for educators across the globe.

We tackled the subject on the Teach & Learn podcast too, discussing the tech behind ChatGPT, how it might impact higher ed and, in a wider discussion, took a look at how to be an educational disruptor at a time of fast-paced innovation.

As I reflect on the articles I’ve read, conferences I’ve attended and faculty I’ve spoken to, I know we’re in the early adoption lifecycle of AI. And in these early stages, we are all on the precipice of a revolution that will change our field in ways we don’t even understand yet. One thing that’s clear to me, however, is that educators need to be more open to trying out AI in a safe way.

This fall, I see many higher education institutions finding ways to encourage faculty to use AI. For example, in Alabama, Auburn University created a new AI professional development course for faculty. Northern Michigan University is considering making a paid version of ChatGPT available to students. Over in Indiana, Purdue University is recruiting 50 new faculty members with expertise in AI to deal with the demand. And while I know there’s an important conversation around integrity and cheating that we can lose sight of, given the critical nature of the issue, I also see opportunities here.

If you’re wondering, “How can I put myself in a favorable position for this part of the AI movement?,” I thought I’d provide you with some ideas to get started:

  1. Take on new opportunities to learn more about AI technology. Many of us have tried ChatGPT, Bard and other AI tools, but if we have colleagues who haven’t, we must encourage them to experiment with the technologies students are bringing into classrooms.
  2. Thoughtfully embrace AI adoption. We need to create an intentional shift to adoption and guardrails around how we plan to have this technology inform the teaching and learning practices we have in place today.
  3. Understand that integration is key for our educational colleagues. We may not be ready for this shift, but we were also not ready for the pandemic. However, once again, we are in a time of innovation disruption that has the potential to cause a huge shift in how we create learning experiences for our learners.
  4. Encourage your students to learn more about AI tools. In August, I attended the AI x Education conference, an event that was planned and hosted completely by students. I listened to students describe responsible uses for AI in business, coding, education and other disciplines with visible excitement. They too want to be actively engaged in this conversation, and we should let them.

Many of our colleagues have open-mindedly embarked on this kind of AI exploration, and I commend them for it. One faculty member I recently chatted with asked students to use generative AI to develop a presentation to give to other students. That strategy enabled them to use AI as the next extension of the flipped classroom (students finding ways to teach their peers about a course topic). Other faculty have asked students to use AI tools to write about their area of focus or passion. Students are then asked to write about the experience of using the tool, making notes of what it got wrong and what it got right. That assignment started a conversation around the use of AI and encouraged students to start thinking critically about using these tools.

Anyone in an educational leadership position ought to take a look at Ray Schroeder’s recent Inside Higher post about how program chairs and other leaders can think about AI.

Thinking about where we are in this innovative cycle, I realize there is so much more to come around this topic. And I look forward to learning how we can use this technology as a teaching and learning superpower. If AI can truly help educators streamline their workload, maybe they can then focus on the critical elements of creating a transformative learning experience for all students.

Written by:

Dr Cristi Ford
Dr. Cristi Ford

Vice President, Academic Affairs

Dr. Cristi Ford serves as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at D2L. She brings more than 20 years of cumulative experience in higher education, secondary education, project management, program evaluation, training and student services to her role. Dr. Ford holds a PhD in Educational Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia and undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of Psychology from Hampton University and University of Baltimore, respectively.

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