Making AI Generative for Higher Education
The ability of computers to create original content is advancing rapidly, spurring an investment arms race within the technology sector. As these advancements touch every area of higher education, universities face decisions about how and when AI can support student learning and faculty research.
This fall, Ithaka S+R is convening a two-year research project in collaboration with a select group of universities committed to making AI generative for their campus community. Together we will assess the immediate and emerging AI applications most likely to impact teaching, learning, and research activities and explore the needs of institutions, instructors, and scholars as they navigate this environment. We will use our findings to create new strategies, policies, and programs to ensure on-campus readiness to harness the technology in the longer term.
Who cares about AI on campus?
While AI has been an area of research for decades, most university leaders are just beginning to explore how these advancements will impact their mission and their core operations. Now, interest in these technologies has exploded with the high profile announcements from companies leveraging generative AI as an aide in textual communications. One-off examples of universities banning ChatGPT outright, or misusing ChatGPT to craft university-wide communications, obscure the reality of how most universities are currently responding—holding informational events tailored to instructors and drafting or updating university-wide policies. There are also new conversations happening among scholarly communities in parallel, from health scientists to mathematicians to every other discipline in between.
Some academic support communities are especially eager to do this work—with libraries and IT professionals serving as early standouts—by surveying uptake among university units, creating AI labs, and by guiding AI policy development university-wide. There has also been sustained attention on implications for academic integrity, both in teaching and scholarly communications.
Teaching and learning professionals are especially leading the charge to help students, instructors, and staff understand the underlying technology and explore its implications for institutional policies and curricular decision making. In addition to working on this issue on the ground at their institutions they are also engaging activities to exchange information among peers. For example, the AI in Education Google group was created in January, and Lance Eaton is leading a project to crowdsource classroom policies for generative AI tools. Anna Mills also curated a comprehensive guide to AI text generators and teaching writing.
Join us to lead together
In these early days of wider application of generative AI it is essential that universities shift from being opportunistic and reactive to adopting a proactive approach. Creating a comprehensive campus-wide strategy requires a deep understanding of the available tools, what areas of activity and their accompanying policies will most likely need to be rethought, and where knowledge gaps exist among staff. This work can be most effectively and efficiently done by universities coming together to develop the broadest possible view and learn from peer efforts.
In response to this need, Ithaka S+R is seeking ~15 universities that have the cross-institutional capacity to respond to new developments in generative AI. Each university in the cohort will appoint two to four individuals representing at least two different campus units to serve on their local research team. During the first year, we will comprehensively review the areas of university activity most affected by this emerging technology. The project’s second year will focus on developing institution-specific strategies for each institution in the cohort and updating our collective understanding of cutting edge developments through the landscape review. At key junctures Ithaka S+R will publish updates and outcomes to share with wider audiences. Ithaka S+R will identify and convene expert advisors as needed to provide input throughout the project.
Making AI Generative for Higher Education will launch in Fall 2023. If your institution is interested in participating, please send an immediate expression of interest to Danielle Cooper (firstname.lastname@example.org).