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Quarterly Bulletin: Considerations and Recommendations for AI Use in Higher Education

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In the latest edition of the Quarterly Bulletin, we discuss generative AI’s place in the higher education space.

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One of the most common questions asked of D2Lers when interacting with clients is “what are you doing with AI?” It’s a hot topic sparking curiosity—how can we leverage this tool for the benefit of our students and faculty? This Quarterly Bulletin will highlight some of the current literature on AI in education. We’ll also cover what we should know as we integrate AI into our teaching practice and consider how we can ensure our students are prepared for a workforce where AI skills are in-demand.

Theoretical Considerations 

Like any technology integration, AI’s relationship to student learning should be rooted in a theoretical framework. It’s important to consider the intersection of the instructor’s knowledge of content, pedagogical practices and technologies in creating an environment that supports deep student learning. Instructors used to integrating technology in the classroom may rate highly in TPACK (sometimes abbreviated as TPCK). TPACK is a framework which identifies the interplay of Technological Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Content Knowledge in creating Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge.  

AI brings in an additional contextual and ethical layer. Theorists and researchers are exploring how TPACK can be expanded or amended considering the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence. One such model, Intelligent TPACK suggested by Celik, promotes the incorporation of ethical considerations in supporting TPACK skill development for instructors. Similarly, Ning et al. constructed an AI-TPACK framework which incorporates AI literacy into the TPACK elements. Through their research, the relationships between the elements composing AI-TPACK were found to be complex and, on occasion, unexpected.   

Impact on Teaching and Learning 

How AI impacts teaching practice and student learning will be an important topic for educational researchers. The following two studies focused on AI integration into feedback practices and engaging students in critical thinking.  

The benefits of generative AI feedback on student writing were investigated by Escalante, Pack, and Barrett. They compared a human tutor to AI feedback, finding that one method of feedback was not significantly different than the other in enhancing student progress. The AI generated feedback did, however, reduce the amount of time spent grading for instructors. Additionally, in investigating the preferences of students, the researchers found mixed preferences towards human feedback and AI feedback. Based on their findings, they suggest pairing AI and human feedback. This approach provides opportunities for students to discuss their AI generated feedback with their instructors, thus taking advantage of the time savings of AI feedback, while maintaining the human connection between student and teacher.  

Research from Guo and Lee investigated ChatGPT’s impact on critical thinking skills. Students used ChatGPT to develop a referenced essay related to course concepts. Essays were then critically analyzed for accuracy or misinformation, relevance of references, and review of additional references to support or refute the claims made by ChatGPT in the essay. Students self-reported an increase in critical thinking skills. However, the study also found that students who heavily depended on ChatGPT self-reported lower abilities to understand complex concepts or make logical conclusions, suggesting that moderation is key in leveraging this technology to improve critical thinking skills.  

Although these are only two examples of ways AI can be used to enhance student learning, the body of research will only grow and continue to provide us with new ideas and teaching methods that will enhance student’s learning. 

Beyond the Classroom: Creating An AI Literate Workforce  

More broadly speaking, as educators we need to ensure we are preparing students to enter a world where AI is changing how we work, or, as Joseph E. Aoun puts it in his book, we need to “Robot Proof” our students. Incorporating AI literacy into the educational experience will prepare students to understand and leverage AI capabilities.  

AI literacy as a concept that “relates to the preparation of educated citizens to contribute to their professions and to society in general” (Kong, et al.). In their research, they found that incorporating AI literacy into the curriculum resulted in an increased ability for students to engage in problem solving using AI, a skill that enhances the marketability of students in their future careers. In some instances, such as the one described in Southworth, et al., the entire curriculum of an institution incorporates AI literacy, alluding to the importance of a holistic approach to enhancing this skill in our students. 

Faculty and Student Challenges

In our work with faculty, we have heard concerns about the time needed to learn and implement AI tools and methods. Like any innovation, intentional incorporation of AI will take time and won’t be straightforward. As educators and leaders, we need to embrace this process and give space for experimentation and, yes, getting it wrong to get it right. Thoughtful consideration of new technologies or teaching methods must include consideration for the intended impact—will our students be better learners, better humans, and better workers? Research is beginning to show that the answer to this is yes—assuming the development is thoughtful, ethical and pedagogically sound. Gurung, through an article in Magna Publications, suggests getting a “FEAL” for AI by asking the following questions: Will the task be (F)aster; Is it (E)thical; Is it (A)ccurate; Will I (L)earn? Evaluating the potential for AI in this way helps instructors to identify the cost/benefit of the time they invest in use of the technology. 

From the student perspective, Guo and Lee  found increased time and instruction was required in asking students to engage with ChatGPT. Notably, part of the increase in time was due to the high-level critical thinking knowledge students were attaining during the process, not just in the time spent learning to use the technology. This holds true of any pedagogical technique that asks students to hone higher-level skills. 

Responsible Use of AI 

Along with advances in teaching and learning come implications that institutions must address as AI becomes woven the institutional fabric.  UNESCO lists academic integrity as one challenging consideration of AI, and academic integrity-based technologies are incorporating new tools to identify AI based cheating. With this in mind, it’s important for institutions, departments and classrooms to consider the policies they’ll put in place to guide ethical academic use of AI tools.  

Chan developed an AI policy for university teaching and learning using the guidelines UNESCO put forth in 2021 (these guidelines have been recently updated in 2023). The policy was created through data collected via surveys of teachers, students, and staff exploring concerns of the use of AI, integration of AI technologies, potential risks of AI technologies, and AI’s impact on teaching and learning. Analysis of the data resulted in an AI Ecological Education Policy Framework consisting of three dimensions: Pedagogical (teaching and learning considerations), Governance (including ethical considerations), and Operational (practical applications). These three dimensions encompass the varied ways in which AI can impact higher education from the institutional to the classroom level. 

D2L has sponsored development of AI policies within the Canadian realm with the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association (CDLRA). Through analysis of survey data, CDLRA identified a gap in the number of institutions with a clear AI policy, and a need for the development of such. Resulting recommendations include the development of a public stance on AI for the institution, as well as further exploration of possible implications of ethical AI use.  


“AI won’t take your job. It’s somebody using AI that will take your job” Professor Richard Baldwin from the Geneva Graduate Institute in Switzerland said during the 2023 World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit.   

In education, we must consider this quote from two perspectives. Firstly, embracing AI in our classroom practices keeps us on the leading edge of technological innovation, supporting our careers and relevance. Secondly, our students will soon be launched into a world where AI is everywhere, touching nearly every job market. If we don’t support ethical and sustainable use of AI while guiding our student’s educational growth, we’re not producing a future workforce that’s ready and able to leverage the tools available to them.  

Thoughtful and ethical incorporation of AI tools in the classroom can create a forward-thinking educational environment that enhances the curriculum and supports vital skill development for our students.  

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Table of Contents

  1. Theoretical Considerations 
  2. Impact on Teaching and Learning 
  3. Beyond the Classroom: Creating An AI Literate Workforce  
  4. Faculty and Student Challenges
  5. Responsible Use of AI 
  6. Conclusion