Higher Education

Session Recap: AI in Higher Education

Session Recap: AI in Higher Education

AI is reshaping higher education, and a recent ReAction Virtual session highlighted just how impactful these changes are becoming. A panel of experts across various academic fields, from English literature to public health, shared their experiences with AI in teaching and research and insights for AI’s potential.

Impact of AI on Teaching & Learning

In a poll at the beginning of the session, a majority — 63% of attendees — said they had not yet used AI in their instruction, while 38% were already exploring AI tools. The panelists then went on to share practical tips, tools, and ethical considerations, of using AI in education.

Stats about attendees from AI in higher education webinar

Ethics and Responsibility: Prioritizing ethics and responsibility in AI application is crucial. In practice, Alicia Plant, Associate Academic Dean at Beulah Heights University shared that this involves deploying AI tools and resources while maintaining stringent data protection measures to safeguard student information. “We must ensure that our use of AI prioritizes student privacy and data security,” said Plant. 

In fields like accounting, where ethical financial practices come into play, it’s important to consider how AI is being used, and always prioritize compliance, safety and privacy, shared Sandra Frempong, Administrator at Blassys Academy. Because of the accelerated advancement of AI technology, Frempong suggested faculty follow research and technology recommendations from reputable sources in order to use AI responsibly. management

Adapting to Change: Keeping pace with the evolving nature of AI is essential for modern education. Julie Hollenbeck, Radiation Therapy Program Director at University of Michigan-Flint, noted that it’s important to stay informed and be open-minded about the evolving technology. “I think it’s great that people are looking at higher ed as a leader in sort of demonstrating how we should appropriately use AI. For me, I’m trying to keep a very supportive environment for my students to try it, but then also helping to guide them ethically, technically, and practically on how to use it responsibly is kind of part of my philosophy.

Practical Applications: Utilizing AI to support under-prepared students can significantly enhance their learning outcomes. Valerie Guyant, Associate Professor at Montana State University – Northern, shared, “AI tools can provide immediate feedback that is crucial for improving students’ writing skills, especially those who start with weaker backgrounds.” AI-powered writing assistants are a prime example, offering real-time suggestions on grammar, style, and structure to help students improve their writing skills

Navigating AI Policies in Academia

To date, there isn’t consistency among higher ed institutions when it comes to AI policies. As the panel revealed, there are many different approaches and they are at various stages of development. 

The panel agreed on one priority that should be consistent: the necessity for AI policies to be both adaptable and responsive to rapidly evolving technologies. “We need policies that can evolve as quickly as the technologies do, ensuring we can harness the benefits while mitigating any risks,” Frempong said, emphasizing the dynamic nature of AI and its implications for policy making. 

In creative disciplines like writing, the establishment of clear guidelines is paramount. These guidelines help faculty and students navigate the ethical use of AI tools, such as text generators, to enhance learning without compromising academic integrity. “Having clear guidelines helps both faculty and students understand the boundaries and possibilities of AI use in academic settings,” Guyant explained, underscoring the importance of clarity in policy to foster responsible innovation.

The panel agreed that effective AI policies need to strike a careful balance between regulatory oversight and academic freedom to support educational objectives. Hollenbeck emphasized the importance of crafting guidelines that both safeguard and foster innovation. 

Adjusting Teaching Methods for AI

As AI becomes more prevalent in education, faculty across various disciplines are revising their teaching strategies to better integrate this technology. The panelists provided detailed insights into how they are shifting away from traditional methods to incorporate more AI-driven approaches that enhance student engagement and learning outcomes

For example, Hollenbeck shared that they’ve moved from relying heavily on traditional written assignments to incorporating more project-based learning and presentations. “We’ve started to focus more on presentations and frequent feedback loops with students,” she said. This shift allows for real-time assessment and immediate correction, helping students apply AI tools effectively while deepening their understanding of the content.

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Additionally, the panel mentioned adjusting the format of assignments to ensure critical thinking is not compromised by the use of generative AI. This approach ensures that students are not just passively using AI but are actively involved in synthesizing information and creating knowledge.

“Instead of traditional papers, we’re now using more active learning projects that require students to engage deeply with the material and demonstrate their understanding through practical applications,” said Deanna Carr-West, Clinical Assistant Professor of Public Health at University of Michigan – Flint. 

Guyant discussed how she uses AI to assist under-prepared students in developing their writing skills. By integrating AI tools that offer real-time feedback on writing assignments, she helps students see immediate improvements and understand the mechanics of good writing. “This not only helps them improve their writing skills but also makes them more confident in their ability to communicate effectively,” Guyant noted.

These adaptations signify a significant shift in teaching methodologies, moving towards more dynamic, interactive, and AI-integrated approaches that prepare students for the complexities of modern professional environments. These changes not only make learning more engaging but also ensure that students are better equipped to use AI responsibly and effectively in their future careers.

The Road Ahead for AI in Higher Education

As we look to the future, it’s critical for educators and institutions to continue to explore how to ethically integrate AI into teaching and learning. Staying informed and proactive will be essential to navigate this rapidly evolving landscape as well as understanding the benefits and challenges of using AI in education.

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