SNU faculty are currently engaged in an ongoing exploration of AI and working through what it means for the classroom and beyond. Beginning last Spring, a portion of every faculty meeting has been dedicated to discussion and feedback regarding this quickly evolving technology. The Center for Learning and Innovation, led by Dr. Scott Marsee and Dr. Lynn Lease, has been facilitating these conversations.
It would be hard to consume media these days without AI being a regular topic of reporting. Although AI has been around for some time, its exponential growth in the last couple of years is unprecedented. However, experts are telling us that AI is still in its infancy. Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive of Google has said, “AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity or fire. But we are still in the early stages of AI.”
There is no doubt that AI will have a major impact on nearly all aspects of our lives and in many ways, we can’t even imagine at this point. Already, a number of professions are requiring proficiency in the use of AI, and therefore institutions of higher education must evolve with the technology. They must come to grips with how educational objectives can continue to be met and what outcomes need to be adjusted or added to adequately prepare students for life beyond college.
SNU is taking this challenge seriously. Initially, the concern was simply that students would use AI as a tool to cheat. However, our academic leadership team, led by Dr. Mark Winslow, has made it a priority to explore both the threats and opportunities this technology poses in order to keep SNU positioned well for the future.
Dr. Winslow offered this: “AI is a powerful tool with the capacity to revolutionize many aspects of our lives, including the way we teach and learn. Our goal in academics is to leverage AI as an effective learning partner and to work with students to utilize AI in responsible and ethical ways.” He also added, “Our AI journey is long-term, over a span of several years as we move from exploring AI as a learning tool to incorporating AI in structured ways across the curriculum to intentionally assimilating AI as a career tool in many of our programs.”
I asked Dr. Lynn Lease, our Director of Faculty Enrichment, why it was important for faculty to explore AI. She answered, “Our role as a higher education academy is to prepare students for their career fields. The career fields our students are graduating into have already changed and are continuing to change at an accelerating speed. If we fail to advance our academy to include elements of AI, our students will become less and less prepared for the changing workplace.”
In addition to grappling with how students need to be prepared to function well in the workplace, it is also becoming clear that AI is a useful tool that faculty can use to improve learning. Dr. Lease offered, “From the creation of personalized assignments and robust assessment tools to writing individualized case studies and curating existing learning resources, AI can support teaching and learning in exciting ways.”
The integration of AI in higher education is disruptive but it is a necessary endeavor. Our faculty, students, and leadership must collaborate as we navigate the days ahead. By doing so, SNU can prepare students for the jobs of the future, responsible citizenship, and service in an increasingly AI-driven world.
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