Unleashing the Power of AI-Generated Content: Implications for Higher Education: An EdTech Lounge Session

Authors: Azra Naseem and Ayesha Mansoor, with assistance from ChatGPT.

The first EdTech Lounge of 2023, led by Azra Naseem Director Blended Digital Learning, Aga Khan University, elicited a range of emotions from 100+ participants, excitement, fear, thoughtfulness, and even intimidation. The session, organised by the Network of Quality Teaching and Learning (QTL_net)​, AKU, aimed to explore the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on academics, students, and educational institutions.

While AI presents novel possibilities for educational development, teaching, and learning, it also brings forth challenges, such as disruptions to traditional assessment methods and plagiarism, hence raising questions about academic integrity. In a bid to address these issues, participants from Universities across Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, UAE, Canada, UK, USA, Uganda, India and Tanzania joined the session and actively engaged in a conversation to address complex questions around the topic.

During the session, Ms. Naseem introduced participants to various OpenAI tools, including DALL-E, an AI system that creates images from textual descriptions using deep learning techniques, and ChatGPT, a language model based on AI technology that can generate human-like responses to a wide range of text-based queries. It will be exceedingly challenging to limit student access to AI as it continues to develop and integrate with the tools we commonly use, such as MS Word or TEAMS. Therefore, faculty needs to work with these tools and understand how AI might benefit students in the learning process while ensuring academic integrity. She highlighted that the question is no longer whether we should use AI or not but rather how to leverage it effectively and equip students with the necessary competencies for navigating complex and ever-evolving times. The digital gap will make it increasingly difficult for students and graduates to compete in the real world, thus it is crucial for institutions like AKU to recognise any potential inequalities that might exist between AI-haves and AI-have-nots.

A Padlet wall was made available during the session to facilitate conversation around five questions. An overview of comments made by attendees on the Zoom Chat and Padlet Wall is shown below:

What possibilities do AI tools (e.g., ChatGPT) offer for your teaching or course?

There was an agreement that AI can serve as a vital academic tool by providing teachers with ease in developing course plans, assessment tools, and grading rubrics while improving student engagement and critical thinking. One of the participant’s noted that "ChatGPT is everyone's best friend" since it streamlines tedious and time-consuming tasks, making them more efficient and organised. Few participants also shared via comments on Zoom how using ChatGPT was helping them in making presentations for the class as well as accomplishing other tasks.

What concerns you most about using AI tools (e.g., ChatGPT) in your course or teaching?

When participants were asked about their concerns with using this emerging technology in courses, responses varied from concerns over the digital divide to inhibiting human creativity and critical thinking. The most significant worry, however, centered around plagiarism in assessments like drafting papers, attempting quizzes, and assignments that couldn't be captured by plagiarism-checking software like Turnitin. Additionally, it was observed that ChatGPT performs independent of religious, cultural, gender, and social contexts, making it unreliable for every situation. One participant noted, "It may interfere with creativity and critical thinking skills. We may end up with students who know a lot of theory or content but cannot apply that knowledge to situations."

How do we (faculty) prepare for AI-based teaching?

ChatGPT can function as a free-of-cost teaching assistant that is just a click away. Multiple faculty members noted that instead of being intimidated by fast-changing technology, faculty should embrace AI and work towards integrating it into the curriculum. Moreover, ChatGPT can provide a framework for designing curriculum, instructional material, or anything that can be further enhanced and contextualised. One respondent also joked about how instructors could finally have a “teaching assistant” without putting in any effort.​

How do we prepare our students for an AI-based world?

Respondents agreed that Gen-Z students and the upcoming generations are better equipped to use technology. Hence, primary education should branch out from the traditional curriculum and modes of teaching and instead focus on building critical skills and empowering students to use AI like ChatGPT and contribute to and debate the ethical limitations and use of such technology. A participant noted in the Zoom Chat that the quality of the output depends on the quality of the query, which requires careful consideration. As a result, educators should adjust their teaching approaches in response to the fact that AI is no longer merely a science fiction concept, but a tangible reality.

What (research) questions are worth exploring?

Below is a list of research themes the participants were interested in exploring.

  • Changing the nature of assessment as we incorporate AI in T-L and curriculum development.
  • How does the use of AI affect the course learning outcomes?
  • What are the ethical implications of using AI-based systems in various applications, such as customer service, mental health counselling and education? This can involve examining issues such as privacy, consent and the potential impact of AI-generated responses on human behaviour.
  • What are the new competencies and readiness requirements for adopting AI in teaching and learning?
  • What are the ethical and academic integrity requirements for using AI-based teaching and learning approaches?

The session concluded by acknowledging that using AI in courses has positive and negative implications. AI can enhance the learning experience by personalising education, automating administrative tasks, and providing real-time feedback to students. AI-powered learning tools can also help students with special needs and those with difficulty learning in a traditional classroom setting. Additionally, AI can improve the efficiency of assessment, freeing up teachers to focus on more complex tasks like providing feedback during one-on-one interactions with students. However, there are also concerns that overreliance on AI could lead to a lack of creativity and critical thinking skills among students. Moreover, the use of AI may lead to job displacement for teachers and raise ethical concerns around data privacy, algorithmic bias, and the use of AI in decision-making. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the implications of AI in classrooms carefully and ensure that it is used responsibly and ethically. It was also mutually agreed that a special interest group can be formed with academics to research, investigate, and share findings that can aid in incorporating AI in teaching and learning especially in the global south. As an immediate way forward, more awareness-raising sessions are needed for faculty, staff and students to understand the use of AI tools in teaching and learning.

Click to view the session recording​.