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Students, faculty learn to navigate changing AI landscape

Ohio University is working to provide educational resources to understand and adapt to new Artificial Intelligence, or AI, technologies in hopes of leading faculty and students toward ethical and effective usage of AI in higher education and their careers. 

Since the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, the AI field has continued to grow and it’s forecast to double its market size from 2022 to 2024. The university is taking strides – like hosting AI-related events – to keep up with AI and to continue to learn about the field. 

OU hosted two AI-themed events during the spring semester, the AI Symposium and the Spotlight on Learning Conference, where undergraduates presented research about OU student perceptions and the use of AI.

The AI Symposium featured speakers such as the founder and CEO of Marking AI Institute and founder of Ready North Paul Roetzer and Amazon Director of Conversational Shopping and Editor-in-Chief of Shopping AI Natalie Zmuda. 

The Spotlight on Learning Conference featured University College Dean Dave Nguyen and his students’ research. The project began in spring 2023. At the start of the project, Nguyen and the rest of the students asked other students how they were using AI. 

“What we essentially figured out is that students don't want to admit they're using (AI) … but there is some level of prevalence within the academic community,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen also said the group's research findings indicated that students drew strong ethical boundaries when it came to AI usage.

“Part of what we need to do is actually get to a place where we can normalize the behavior and usage of (AI),” Nguyen said.

Dean of the Scripps College of Communication Scott Titsworth teaches an Innovation Scholars class, and he said he wanted to expose his students to AI. 

“(AI) is going to be so fundamentally impactful in almost everything that we as people do that I wanted to think about what we could do in the (Scripps Innovation) class that would help community organizations,” Titsworth said. 

Titsworth said teaching students about AI gives them a competitive advantage in the work field. He said he thinks OU is ahead of the curve in teaching about AI, which will inevitably help students in the long run.

“Saying to the students, as we're teaching classes, ‘Let’s think critically about how this can be used, why you would use it,’ those questions that are already belabored, I think teaches critical thinking,” Titsworth said.

However, Stan Yerrick, a junior studying political science, who worked as a research assistant alongside Nguyen, said there is a heavy prevalence of self-censorship related to students using AI. 

Yerrick said when students utilize AI, sometimes they have AI write an entire essay for them or only edit some of the lines AI produces; they consider taking the ideas from AI cheating because students are using text generation to formulate essays. 

Titsworth said that anytime there is an innovation it comes with an innovation adoption curve. He said some people are early adopters and some are laggards. As long as one group dedicates itself to learning the innovation, it can teach others the effectiveness and ethics of it.

“(If) a few people started (learning AI) then others see how it is integrated (into) classes," he said. “Then, I think other people will start to integrate (AI) as well.”

Meredith Viox, a sophomore studying information graphics and publication design, said she does not feel threatened about AI in her career. 

“I don't think that AI is going to take potential jobs from me in the future,” she said. “I think it has a long way to go.”

Viox said clients are going to design firms to get that human-to-human connection, which is not something AI can provide. She said she doesn’t think AI is going to be able to capture that same level of human connection anytime soon. 

“I just think the time, the authenticity, the brainstorming that goes into making art is what sets it apart from stuff that's made on AI,” she said. 

As new ethical guidelines are examined, Titsworth said it’s important for the university to continue to teach AI, and faculty and students can learn more about it together.

“I think what we have to do at the college then is, first of all, we can't wait for those (ethical) answers to be provided to us,” he said. "We can’t not teach AI until we have all the guidance that could be out there because that may not happen very fast. And the fact is that AI is already impacting the disciplines, so we have to teach it.”


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