From education to employment

How education can make AI a friend not a foe


AI presents universities both opportunities and challenges when it comes to the education of students. So, how can teachers use it to their advantage and enhance the learning experience of their students.

AI tools have become a major talking point in education, both as an opportunity and a challenge. We are talking to Suraj Mohandas, VP of Strategy and Education, and Mat Pullen, Senior Manager of Education at Jamf to delve into the dynamic role of AI in the sector.

Mat and Suraj explore how AI is reshaping classroom experiences, address educators’ concerns, and highlight the benefits and challenges of integrating AI in academic settings. They also offer insightful practical advice for universities to maximise AI’s potential while ensuring a safe and effective learning environment.

How is AI currently being used in the classroom, and why are lecturers worried?

We’ve seen a lot of ways AI is currently being leveraged in classrooms, and these use cases are constantly evolving. Primarily, it’s being used to personalise learning experiences, automate administrative tasks, provide immediate feedback, and make a vast number of educational resources more accessible to every student. For universities, it’s like having an extra assistant in almost every department. It’s also a massive time-saver for lecturers. By taking on time-consuming admin tasks like data analysis and grading, AI frees them up to focus more on what they love – teaching and directly engaging with their students.

But with this exciting potential comes a fair share of apprehension. Lecturers are, quite understandably, concerned about several aspects. First, there’s the big issue of data privacy. With AI, we’re talking about a lot of student data being used and processed by machine learning algorithms, and keeping this data safe is critical. Then there’s the question of quality. Not all AI tools are created equal, and ensuring that these tools are accurate and beneficial for educational purposes is crucial.

There’s also the concern about AI potentially replacing human interaction and mentorship in education. Whilst AI offers efficiency and personalised learning, it cannot replace the invaluable human elements of empathy, understanding, and real-time adaptability that educators bring. Universities and other educational entities will need to play a big role in making sure that AI adoption is balanced with sufficient human involvement in education.

Most importantly, the biggest concern is the issue of bias and academic integrity. AI is only as unbiased as the data it’s fed. So, what type of data an AI solution is using significantly influences the type of output it’s going to produce. On the other hand, lecturers can’t ignore that students are already using generative AI tools like ChatGPT to a great extent across their assignments and academic tasks. So, it’s completely changing the higher education landscape, as the lecturers are having to rethink how they will assess student learning.

What are the benefits of AI at universities?

One of the most significant advantages is being able to provide personalised learning. AI algorithms can analyse individual student performance, tailoring the learning material to suit each student’s unique needs and learning pace. So, every student can receive instruction and content that resonates with their specific learning style, optimising their educational experience.

As previously mentioned, AI can significantly help lecturers with time-consuming tasks like grading. Now, it’s never advisable to rely on AI-based grading, but such technologies can ease the process for lecturers. For instance, lecturers can use AI tools to get a summarised review of a student’s paper, understand its quality, and scope out obvious mistakes or errors. This also leads to improved and faster feedback for students. 

From a student’s perspective, the biggest advantage is accessibility. In the past two decades, search engines and social media platforms have made real-time education accessible to everyone. There are millions of lessons, tutorials, materials, and information on every single topic a student might need.

Now, AI boosts this accessibility by 100x, or even more. This is because AI solutions learn from the data that is already available across the internet. So, instead of searching for a lesson or any solution on the internet, students can ask the AI platform, and it will gather the required information in real-time. At the same time, AI adds more context to existing information or content, so students don’t have to spend hours on the Internet and go through countless materials to get their desired resources. Ultimately, this leads to better self-directed learning and encourages students to explore subjects more deeply.

You’ve compared AI to Wikipedia and Youtube, why?

Just as Wikipedia and YouTube were initially met with scepticism but later became integral parts of the educational toolkit, AI is currently at a similar juncture.

When Wikipedia first emerged, it was often criticised for its open-editing model, leading to concerns about the accuracy and reliability of its content. However, over time, it has evolved into a valuable starting point for research and learning, offering a vast repository of information that is continually updated and refined. Similarly, YouTube, initially seen as a platform for entertainment, has transformed into an educational powerhouse. YouTube today is significantly different than it was a decade ago, providing a diverse range of learning materials, from academic lectures to practical tutorials.

So, initially, there was a learning curve with these platforms – figuring out how to integrate them into the classroom in a way that was beneficial. The same goes for AI. While there are valid concerns about its use, especially regarding academic integrity and the quality of AI-generated content, it’s potential in education is too significant to overlook.

Like Wikipedia and YouTube, AI can be a source of information and learning assistance, not the single source of truth. It’s not about letting AI do the teaching, but rather about using it as a powerful support tool that can augment the learning experience.

What are your top 5 tips for universities to gain the full benefits of AI?

The first step should be to integrate AI into their curriculum and administrative processes purposefully. This means identifying areas where AI can have the most significant impact, such as personalised learning, administrative efficiency, or research.  

Then, the focus must extend to providing comprehensive training for the teachers and administrative staff. This training should cover the technical aspects of using AI tools and the pedagogical strategies for incorporating these technologies into teaching and learning processes. Equipping staff with the skills and knowledge to use AI effectively will ensure that its integration is beneficial and impactful. 

The third strategy, and often the most important one, would be to encourage students to engage ethically with AI tools. Universities should arrange special courses or workshops dedicated to teaching students how to use AI responsibly, understand its limitations, and ensure it complements their learning journey. It’s important to teach and encourage students to fact-check, as well as consider the relevance and applicability of AI-generated content in their work. This enhances their learning experience and prepares them for a workforce increasingly reliant on AI technologies. 

Also, AI shouldn’t be introduced as a replacement for human involvement. Universities should always emphasise the irreplaceable role of human interaction and mentorship in education while leveraging AI for efficiency and personalised learning. 

And lastly, every educational institute must consider the role of web and content-filtering solutions in managing their AI technologies. Such solutions can help in filtering inappropriate content and blocking access to potentially harmful websites. They can also track how an implemented AI tool is using the internet, detect policy violations, and generate reports. These functionalities help in assessing the effectiveness of web filtering policies and provide insights into how AI and other digital resources are being utilised within the university. This level of control is essential in maintaining an educational environment that’s both safe and conducive to learning. 

So, by combining these five strategies, universities can fully benefit from AI while ensuring a safe, effective, and responsible learning environment.

By Suraj Mohandas, VP of Strategy, Education at Jamf, and Mat Pullen, Senior Manager, Education at Jamf

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