How AI is Changing the Education Landscape

Technology May 2023 PREMIUM
AI should not be viewed in a negative light, as it offers many opportunities to enhance learning and adapt content to different types of learners and situations. It should be used critically, however, since it still has limitations with regard to accuracy. At the University of Phoenix, content designers and instructors view AI as a useful tool, and as a complement to human inputs rather than a replacement for them.

Written by Marc Booker, PhD

AI is like any other new tool that has entered the arena of learning and enhances a student’s access to data and information, in order to process and consume knowledge more quickly. Whether it be the internet, the calculator, or even the printing press – all have entered social consciousness as disruptors with some wariness and skepticism, but were ultimately used to change how fast we can learn and share information and pass it on to future generations. One must be careful in its use and administration, but not fearful, as it has the potential to do great good in the realm of practical distance education and online learning.

Use-Cases for AI in Education

 At University of Phoenix, we are looking to use AI in the classroom that mirrors the practical ways students may use these tools in the workplace, especially where it can expand critical thinking skills or the evaluative judgment of the student. For example, in marketing classes, one could create exercises where the student is tasked with asking AI to write multiple marketing messages or pitches for a given product. At that point, the student’s assignment is to review and deconstruct the statements that the AI provided and share their feedback as to which pitch or message may be better than the others, with the ultimate goal of creating a final message curated from both the AI and the student’s thoughts. These exercises not only teach students how to leverage AI tools in their professional lives, but also help to create a mental model for the student on how AI can be properly used in the classroom for learning. If students only hear about AI tools from university leadership and faculty as things that assist cheaters and plagiarizers, then this will be the limited use that is placed into student’s minds – when the opportunities offered by AI are so much more.

Leveraging AI to Improve Efficiencies

Current AI - developed as a linguistic tool and model - can help curriculum designers enhance the way they frame the tone and positioning of their messages or lessons. Using AI in this manner can help save time with the creation of more personalized learning materials, allowing instructional designers to adapt their content to serve different types of learners. For example, if an instructional designer wants to take verbiage about nuclear fission that is very technical and present it in a more conversational tone for first year students, AI can be asked to adjust the language or tone to fit the needs and levels of the learners. From a corporate training perspective, one can even ask AI models to take important concepts like workplace diversity and frame them in such a way that they can be used to build curriculum or develop quiz questions, thus supporting the learning process at different levels – from executives to new hires. So far, our experience using AI in curriculum development has been more akin to having another partner in the office who reviews your work and gives you suggestions or different ideas to ponder, rather than a replacement for human input.

Key Learnings

There are naturally pros and cons for AI usage. As discussed above, AI works well when it enhances opportunities to adapt data to different users and applications. Moreover, using the tool to read and review the output of a specific task can create learning within the reader – given they are consuming new information and knowledge they may not have had before. The learning can be expounded upon even further when the learner is asked to use the results of the AI to help them complete a specific task or job, as now that knowledge is put into action.

AI definitely produces good content and does an excellent job for many different linguistic and written uses, but it is not perfect nor completely accurate. 

Given that AI is a reflection of the data it has consumed and is able to process, there may be holes or gaps in the accuracy of AI output depending on the type of information being requested or how concisely the prompt has been written when asking for something. For instance, some AI models have limitations on the age of the data that they are able to process. In those instances, information about recent events can be limited or inaccurate. Additionally, asking AI to write biographies about people or individuals with shared names, traits, or demographic profiles can generate incorrect information and combine two people into one – especially if the prompt or request is not very specific. 

Ultimately, what hasn’t worked well is when a user asks for very general and non-specific information and then assumes that the AI output is error free. We are still at a place where this technology is emerging. Therefore, over or underestimating its capabilities and not checking outputs can be problematic.

In addition, administrators and teachers must be aware of the ways these tools can be misused for plagiarism and find ways to guide students and learners onto a better path.

 Reactions to AI: an Opportunity for Growth

Currently, most individuals in the instructional design space view AI with much curiosity and interest – especially for what the evolution of AI can look like.  At our institution, AI has not taken the place of personnel. We see AI as a tool that can help enrich content or be leveraged for practical assignments within the classroom that mirror tasks in the professional environment. Because of this, there is excitement around exploring AI’s innovative contributions to a deeper learning experience. There are many opportunities to create cool, interesting activities to engage students with a new technology that is likely to ride alongside us – in our personal and professional lives - for some time to come. 

About the Author:

Dr. Marc Booker is Vice Provost for Strategy at University of Phoenix. With over two decades of experience working with online and distance education students at the post-secondary level in admissions, registrar, and academic administration roles, Marc brings a unique perspective on trends in higher education from a post-traditional student lens. As Vice Provost for Strategy, Marc oversees critical path academic initiatives to improve the student experience such as learning platform implementations, curricular enhancements, developing innovative academic program designs, and creating empathetic solutions to drive improved student outcomes. Marc is a regular speaker, author, and contributor to national higher education associations, and in 2020 Dr. Booker was awarded a Hall of Fame award from Blackboard for Providing Thought Leadership and Innovation in higher education.


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