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What are the risks and opportunities for AI in the academic landscape?

Librarians and Technology from Sage staff at the  ChatGPT and Generative AI Codesign Challenge workshop at Tech from Sage Insight conference

We recently held our inaugural Tech from Sage Insight conference, a two-day event held in Birmingham, bringing together Technology from Sage staff, academic librarians, students and thought leaders from across the higher education sector. At the event, members from Technology from Sage’s Tech Team hosted a ChatGPT and Generative AI Co-design Challenge: How can we address the risks and benefit from the opportunities? breakout session with librarians. As technology continues to advance, artificial intelligence (AI) is making its way into various aspects of our lives, including the field of education.

Benjamin, Nadeem, Richard and Alex from Technology from Sage’s Tech Team have shared the discoveries from the workshop in this blog post. They’ll explore the effects of AI on assignments and assessments in educational settings; from AI-powered answer generation and checking to the digitization of resources and examine the advantages and challenges that arise from integrating AI into the learning process.

Elevating Answering Questions Using AI

AI has the potential to revolutionize the way students answer questions. With AI algorithms, students can receive immediate assistance in formulating well-structured and accurate responses. AI can analyze the question, identify relevant keywords, and suggest appropriate answers, providing a valuable resource for students to enhance their learning experience.

Additionally, AI-powered tools, similar to Grammarly, can assist in checking the accuracy and clarity of students’ answers. These tools can help students identify grammatical errors, enhance their writing style, and improve overall academic performance.

Dated Nature of Training Material

One challenge with integrating AI into education is the dated nature of training materials. As AI relies on vast amounts of data, outdated training materials can lead to inaccurate or fictional references. Educational institutions need to ensure that the data used to train AI models is up-to-date and relevant to avoid misleading students. 

AI for Link Validation and Automation

Another area where AI can be beneficial is link validation in reading lists. Currently, identifying broken or outdated links is a manual and time-consuming process for librarians. AI-powered algorithms can automate this task, making it easier to ensure that students have access to reliable and up-to-date resources. Additionally, AI can assist in automating purchasing needs, enabling institutions to make cost-effective decisions by comparing prices and suppliers.

Desk with coffee, tablet and someone working at a laptop

Discovery of Content and Recommendations

AI can play a significant role in improving content discovery for students. By analyzing user preferences, reading histories, and academic requirements, AI algorithms can provide personalized and accurate recommendations for further reading. Similar to Netflix’s recommendation system, AI can suggest relevant resources that align with a student’s interests and academic goals.

Furthermore, AI can help address the issue of bias in resource collections. By considering a broader range of factors beyond just keywords, AI algorithms can provide more diverse and unbiased content recommendations. Cross-institution and cross-department recommendations can also facilitate interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.

Digitization of Resources

The digitization of resources brings accessibility benefits to students. AI can assist in formatting resources to meet accessibility standards, such as providing image alt text for visually impaired students. However, challenges arise in accurately converting scanned chapters to digital format, especially with complex elements like tables and graphs. Librarians may face difficulties in identifying issues with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and ensuring the quality and usefulness of digitized content.

Lights illustrating digitization of resources

Chat and LibAnswers

Live chat and chatbot services have become popular ways for students to seek assistance. AI-powered chatbots can handle frequently asked questions, reducing the workload of librarians and providing immediate responses to students’ queries. However, there may be a lack of trust or enjoyment in using chatbots, highlighting the importance of improving their training and performance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the adoption of chat services, with some institutions implementing 24/7 support from American universities. There is also potential in training AI models on librarian knowledge bases to provide more accurate and tailored responses to student inquiries.

Recognizing the Need for Engagement

Educational institutions need to adapt assessments to account for the influence of AI and prevent academic dishonesty. While plagiarism has always been a concern, the use of AI raises questions about the reliability and fairness of traditional assessment methods. Assessments should aim to test understanding in ways that AI cannot currently replicate.

Some interesting remarks were made on a more global approach to AI from educational institutions; while some are resistant to it, and the avenues it opens up to students in the form of plagiarism, AI will be an everyday tool employed in the job market by the time they graduate/enter the workplace. By depriving students of these tools in academia, are institutions restricting the skillsets of individuals further down the line?

Closing Remarks

Just as when search engines became mainstream, and created concerns over plagiarism and how these tools will be used within the context of education, AI provides both concerns and opportunities.”

ALEX, SENIOR PHP ENGINEER

Interested in Tech from Sage Insight 2023?

Click below to access all of the Tech from Sage Insight 2023 recordings:

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