From education to employment

The AI dilemma: Lean in, look on, or opt out? 

Robotic hand reaching out to a human hand

Jisc offers advice and guidance on harnessing the power of AI to improve the educational experience  

“Generative AI tools undoubtedly have the potential to improve the educational experience for both learners and staff,” says Paul McKean, director of FE and skills at Jisc. “The key to using them effectively is having a basic understanding of how they work as well as their ethical implications.” 

The reality is that wewill be using AI in further education. Its capabilities are already built into software that we all use every day, so avoiding it will be impossible and banning its use is not an option. Looking on from the sidelines while it proliferates simply increases the risk of being left behind.  

To prepare learners for today’s workplace, FE practitioners need the confidence to use the technology, and the knowledge to use it correctly. 

Levelling the playing field for learners 

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT offer a real opportunity to level the playing field for all learners by, for example, providing personalised learning materials or digital coaching. Teaching is full of tasks that lend themselves to automation – and that’s what AI does best. Creating learning materials, designing courses, assisting with lesson planning: generative AI tools can do these things quickly and without friction.  

However, they also present nuanced challenges that demand careful consideration before adoption. 

Integrating any new tools into the classroom should be done judiciously – and this is especially important with generative AI tools. As well as understanding the basics of how the technology works, educators must consider ethics, academic integrity and equity.  

“Now is the time for educators to gain an understanding of how to use AI ethically,” says McKean. “Then they can start to build technical skills. Understandably, many institutions and their staff are anxious about the rapid evolution of AI, but the resources available from Jisc’s national centre for AI (NCAI) are specifically aimed at enabling colleges to define a pathway towards appropriate, ethical use of AI, and to help staff lean into the technology.” 

Demystifying generative AI tools through shared experience 

There are so many myths and misconceptions around generative AI and its uses that sometimes it’s hard to tell fact from fiction. The same can be said of the outputs from these tools – and there are other considerations around security and age-related consent of which staff may be unaware. 

To provide some answers, Jisc’s NCAI offers advice and guidance on the use of AI in education. A range of freely available resources – reports and primers, online courses, webinars and pilot projects – are specifically designed to give a solid grounding to colleges considering their approach to AI.  

A good starting point is Jisc’s generative AI primer, which has just been updated to provide the very latest information on generative AI tools and their implications for education.  The newly published AI in tertiary education 2023 report gives an overview of what AI can do for the sector, where it can add the most value, and what to consider in order to implement it ethically, while A pathway towards responsible, ethical AI is designed to help navigate these complex issues with confidence.

Jisc also provides a free mini MOOC to help members explore AI and ethics. In addition, the NCAI regularly runs pilots with colleges, enabling staff to test the efficacy of new tools like TeacherMatic and AnyWyse while increasing their own familiarity with generative AI.  

To help leverage the combined expertise of the wider community, Jisc has set up an AI community group where members can share best practice, learn more about AI and its uses in education, and connect with peers to find common solutions to shared problems.  

“Jisc’s focus is on giving our members the knowledge and understanding to use generative AI tools ethically and effectively,” says McKean. “It’s the best way to help FE practitioners reduce their workload and prepare their learners for an AI-powered workplace.” 

Related Articles