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Published: 2/28/2024

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Towards the end of the fall 2022 semester, when most faculty members were immersed in grading final exams and winding their semesters down in eager anticipation of the holiday break, an unfamiliar form of intelligence crept into our classrooms. OpenAI released ChatGPT with little pomp or ceremony on November 30, 2022.

The way in which we learn, as well as how we perform many day-to-day tasks, will never be the same.

Digital natives to AI pioneers

Still feeling the strain of a three-year COVID-19 hangover, our post-pandemic culture had only just accepted the realization: the world as we knew it was a distant memory. 2023 will forever be remembered as the year we were suddenly thrust into a new and ever-developing era of artificial intelligence (AI). History will record the 2020s as not only the decade that ushered in a global pandemic, but also one that generated some of the fastest developments in artificial intelligence.

As great as the temptation might be to conclude that artificial intelligence is an enemy, the reality is that Generative AI is not merely here to stay, but is permanently changing the way we consume information.

For our context in higher education, we must understand that students are now learning and completing their assignments differently than a year ago. Although the current generation of college students are digital natives and have been using online resources in the learning process, their ability to find answers and generate quality assessment content has been fundamentally transformed with the advent of ChatGPT.

As a result, the education process is changing at a rate we have not previously experienced, and the learning environment is undergoing radical development. Some would even argue, it is on the crux of a radical improvement. The phrase evolution would not be adequate to describe where we currently find ourselves. That term implies a period of slow advancement. Whereas, the developments we are currently witnessing are so seismic in nature, they ought best to be understood as revolutionary.

A new frontier in higher education

We ought not, however, be fast to conclude that the academic institution is in existential peril. Artificial intelligence is certainly changing the way we work. Although it is amplifying the potential avenues for academic dishonesty, it ought best—at least for now—be seen as a tool we can embrace, rather than an enemy in need of defeat. The reality is that most educators are not—so far—likely to lose their jobs to artificial intelligence. Rather, there is a genuine risk that jobs could be lost to those who know how to use it.

The pathway forward is not a longing for what has been. Instead, it requires a cautious adoption of AI, and an adjustment in the way we not only prepare our classroom interactions, but also how we presently assess our students. Consequently, rather than perceive the rise of ChatGPT as a threat, we would perhaps be better to view the growing horizon as a new frontier of opportunities and pedagogical possibilities. AI is here to stay, and therefore our task is to understand it and adapt to how the learning environment is changing.

The opportunity to lead the way

As academics, we ought to be at the forefront of experimentation with artificial intelligence, rather than being known for our artificial ignorance. Used thoughtfully and intentionally, AI can support instructors in the implementation of strategies that would otherwise take prohibitive amounts of time and effort. Ethan Mollick casts a very compelling vision of the future. For example, Generative AI can serve as a digital teaching assistant. It can help us to develop or refine grading rubrics, in-class discussion prompts, and PowerPoint presentations, just to name a few.

If interested in experimenting with different pedagogical perspectives, ChatGPT can provide a plethora of (for example) flipped classroom teaching plans, debate prompts, and even assume the persona of someone of interest from the past. For instance, when teaching about Plato’s Theory of Forms, artificial intelligence can be instructed to assume the role of Plato himself, and to not only explain his concept to twenty-first century students, but also to enter a dialogue “live” and in-class, responding to questions from the students as though they were in the presence of Plato himself.

AI tools can expand our educational reach by helping us create videos for international students as well as designing our own virtual teaching assistants to deliver video content. Learning opportunities are almost without limit, and the creative scope of the classroom can be harnessed to help the student learning process in ways not previously envisioned.

A seamless blending of the human agent with AI

The future of higher education is here, and it is no longer going to be hybrid. Rather than being remote or a COVID-era combination of in-person and online, it is fast-becoming a blend of human and artificial interactions.

We are witnessing the dawn of haibrid (h-AI-brid) education. Haibrid education describes a learning process in which the classroom—whether synchronous or asynchronous—will combine human learning alongside artificial intelligence technologies. In short, the future of higher education is transforming into an experience that combines human and AI learning processes and tools for the benefit of both instructor and student.

As artificial intelligence continues to develop and improve, it is—whether instructors approve of it or not—going to become a seamless component in our everyday lives and working environments. Higher education is no exception to the wave of AI technologies sweeping through our culture, and we are already witnessing a growing use of it in the pedagogical process, with both educators and students alike increasingly relying on AI for everyday tasks. The haibrid classroom is one where AI tools will become a natural extension of the instructor rather than a replacement, but this presupposes the instructor understands the technology and knows how to best leverage it for the academy.

 

Image of Professor Martin Jones

 

Written by Martin Jones, Chair of Accounting and Business and Assistant Professor of Law and Ethics in the College of Business and Entrepreneurship at North Greenville University.

 

 

 

Ready for the future of higher education?

Martin Jones presented a session at our Empowered Educator Online Conference on February 14: “Haibrid Education: A Vision for a New Era of Learning.

 



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