AI in education

December 14, 2023 •

3 min reading

AI and higher education: Thought partner or paid consultant?

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In the lead up to the 6th annual Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), Dr Laura Zizka introduces the theme that will headline this dynamic pedagogical event: the ubiquitous role of AI in education. In this opinion piece, she airs her views on the pervasive Chat GPT technology and how to best harness it for the accompanying tool that it is.

Technological revolutions come and go

The prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI) tools is rampant in today’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) which has led to (sometimes) dramatic steps to control it. I have been teaching for over 28 years and can tell you a story, not one of 1984 fear and panic; rather, a reassuring bedtime story to make you dream.

When I started teaching, the computer was being used (I’m not THAT old), but the clunky desktop computers and, at that time, AOL’s ‘You've got mail’, made using the computer more of an effort than a given. In fact, who remembers the computer lab where you ‘borrowed’ a computer and paid for the print out of your work? Computer labs were replaced by more home computers and, quickly after, laptops. In fact, with the simultaneous growth in bandwidth, information can now be accessed through any Smart device.

The moral of this story? We have had so many technological revolutions prior to today’s AI and we will have more in the future. There is no reason to panic; We got this! We will use AI's Chat GPT as the tool it was meant to be used for. It can accompany our students as virtual thought partners to help them brainstorm or edit their work.

AI can provide an overview on a topic that is ‘good enough’. And, sometimes, ‘good enough’ is enough. On some topics, students can succeed with minimal knowledge from AI if they can gain further knowledge from other venues such as practical experience or expert interventions. The end.


What is really being assessed here?

Thus, a new era has begun for HEIs and with it, some words of caution: Chat GPT does not build critical thinking and problem-solving skills within students which are essential for academic and lifelong success. It does not admit mistakes nor limitations and it does not discern what is the best inference.

And then there’s that elephant in the room: ASSESSMENT. There is the pervasive fear that students will cheat. We will not know if they did the work or their paid AI consultant. Well, when it comes to AI and assessment, it can be boiled down to two questions:

“Are we actually assessing for the learning objectives and graduate attributes that we say we are?” or  “Are students (and in turn any AI tools that they have access to) being rewarded for surface-level information retrieval and memorization?”


Top suggestions for higher education institutions

  1. If the questions are knowledge-based, choose assessment modes that are closed book.
  2. If the assessment is open-book, ask the students to specify where and how they used AI in the assignment. Remember, no matter the topic or tool, the work submitted must be the student (s) original work.
  3. Consider asking for a reflection paragraph on how they did the task or add an oral element to the assessment where students explain the learning process.
  4. Train your students by doing in-class exercises to mimic what you expect them to do for assessments.
  5. Make sure the students know what is and what is not acceptable use of AI in your course. All faculty members who teach on the same course must agree to the use and limitations of AI in their courses. Faculty members can limit or prohibit the AI used in their activities, tasks, or assessments.
  6. Encourage open dialogue with the students regarding the benefits and opportunities of using AI.

And, on a happy note: Most students don’t cheat, with or without AI. Let’s make the courses so exciting that the learning outweighs the assessment… and when we reach THAT place, no AI will make a difference. After all, don’t our students deserve more?


SoTL 2024 meets technology

For more discussions on this and other topics that affect teaching and learning, please join us at the 6th annual Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) conference to be held at EHL Hospitality Business School on February 1, 2024. The conference theme is ‘I am not a ChatBot: SoTL meets Technology’.

We will spend the day in animated discussions and hands-on workshops. We will be the humans who use technology to improve our teaching and learning, not the output of an AI prompt. Come and be real with us!

Written by

PhD, faculty member at EHL Lausanne