A look into how AI impacts higher education, weighing the potential benefits and drawbacks
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic of discussion, particularly in the higher education sector. While AI presents potential benefits to higher education, it also poses risks. In this article, we will explore both sides of the AI coin in the context of higher education. We will begin by defining AI and then delve into the potential harms and benefits it presents in higher-education settings.
Understanding AI in Education
AI refers to a machine that provides a service to humans and that’s tailored to that human or to that space. The keyword here is “tailored.” This means that if two different individuals use the same AI product with the same input, the output would be different. The same holds true if the same product is placed into two different spaces: The output would be tailored to each space.
Potential Harms of AI in Higher Education
1. The Limitations of Binary Thinking
AI is based on binary math, meaning that it either produces a 0 or 1, yes or no, correct or wrong. This approach leaves no room for nuance.
- Predictive work: AI systems can provide students with work in areas they struggle with, but they may not accurately gauge the student’s knowledge. For example, if a student answers “bat” instead of “bats,” the AI system might mark it wrong, whereas a human would understand the intended answer.
2. Loss of Baseline Knowledge and Skills
As AI enters our education system, students risk losing the basic knowledge and skills required to cultivate more advanced abilities.
- AI-dependency: Students may use AI systems to write papers, find answers, and attend virtual classes, missing the opportunity to develop foundational skills.
Potential Benefits of AI in Higher Education
1. Personalized Learning
AI-based predictive systems can offer personalized learning experiences to cater to each student’s unique needs.
- Tailored instruction: AI can adjust the pace and level of instruction for each student, ensuring they fully understand the subject matter.
2. Enhanced Student Engagement and Access to Learning
AI tools, such as online chatbots, can provide students with instant help and support in their learning.
- Immediate assistance: Students can access AI chatbots for help with assignments or to clarify concepts without waiting for the next class or fearing to speak up in front of their peers.
The Complex Relationship Between AI and Higher Education
The use of AI in higher education presents both advantages and challenges. AI tools like ChatGPT can provide quick answers for struggling students but can also undermine the educational foundation that we need. The key is for higher education to balance the benefits of AI while minimizing its potential harms.
To demonstrate AI’s capabilities, we asked ChatGPT how AI can be helpful in higher education, and within 30 seconds, it provided the following information:
|Figure 1: AI’s response to the question
|– Personalize learning experiences
|– Enhance student engagement and access to learning
|– Provide immediate assistance with assignments and concept clarification
We also asked ChatGPT how integrators and technologists should prepare for the increased use of AI in higher education. It provided useful advice and cautions:
- Stay informed about the latest developments in AI in higher-education technologies.
- Be familiar with the specific needs and goals of the institutions they are working with, as well as the current limitations of AI technologies.
- Have a strong understanding of the ethical considerations surrounding the use of AI in education and be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders about these issues.
- Foster collaboration between educators and AI developers. Integrators and technologists should encourage collaboration between AI developers and educators to ensure that AI tools are designed to meet the unique needs of the educational context. This collaboration can help create AI systems that genuinely enhance the learning experience while addressing potential challenges and ethical concerns.
- Develop strategies for effective AI integration. To maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of AI in higher education, integrators and technologists should work with educational institutions to develop comprehensive strategies for AI integration. These strategies should outline clear goals, define success metrics, and establish guidelines for the responsible and effective use of AI tools in the classroom.
- Encourage critical thinking and digital literacy. As AI becomes more prevalent in higher education, it is crucial to promote critical thinking and digital literacy among students. Integrators and technologists should work with educators to develop curricula that empower students to evaluate the reliability and accuracy of AI-generated content and make informed decisions about when and how to use AI tools in their learning journey.
- Monitor and adapt to the evolving AI landscape. The field of AI is continually evolving, and its impact on higher education will change over time. Integrators and technologists should regularly monitor advancements in AI technology, assess their implications for higher education, and adapt their strategies and practices accordingly. This proactive approach will help educational institutions stay ahead of the curve and ensure that AI is used to its fullest potential in enhancing the learning experience.
In conclusion, the relationship between AI and higher education is complex, and it is essential to acknowledge both the benefits and the potential harms of this technology. By staying informed, fostering collaboration, developing effective strategies, promoting critical thinking and digital literacy, and adapting to the evolving AI landscape, integrators and technologists can help ensure that AI is used responsibly and effectively in higher education settings.