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  • Writer's pictureAnchor Point

UK Universities Establish #AI Literacy Principles to Navigate the Rise of #GenerativeAI in Education

Vice-chancellors at the prestigious Russell Group universities in the UK have endorsed a set of guiding principles aimed at ensuring students and staff are well-versed in artificial intelligence (AI) as the education sector grapples with the increasing use of generative AI. The code, signed by all 24 universities, seeks to enable institutions to embrace the potential of AI while upholding academic rigor and integrity in higher education.

Previously, there were discussions about banning AI software like ChatGPT in education to prevent cheating. However, the new guidance emphasizes the importance of teaching students to use AI appropriately in their studies, while also raising awareness about the risks of plagiarism, bias, and inaccuracies associated with generative AI.

To support students, who are already incorporating tools like ChatGPT into their assignments, staff members will receive training to effectively assist them. The emergence of new assessment methods is expected to mitigate the risk of cheating.

All Russell Group universities have reviewed their academic conduct policies and guidelines to address the advent of generative AI. The updated guidance explicitly outlines instances where the use of generative AI is inappropriate, aiming to inform students and staff and empower them to use these tools responsibly and acknowledge their utilization when necessary.

Developed in collaboration with AI and education experts, these principles mark an initial step in what promises to be a challenging period of transformation in higher education as AI increasingly reshapes the world.

The five guiding principles underscore the commitment of universities within the sector to: foster AI literacy among students and staff; equip staff to guide students in the proper use of generative AI tools; adapt teaching and assessment methods to incorporate the ethical use of AI while ensuring equal access; uphold academic integrity; and share best practices as the technology evolves.

Dr. Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, emphasized their dedication to seizing the tremendous transformative opportunities presented by AI. He highlighted that the principles underscore their commitment to harnessing AI in a manner that benefits students and staff while safeguarding the integrity of the high-quality education offered by Russell Group universities.

Professor Andrew Brass, Head of the School of Health Sciences at the University of Manchester, emphasized the need to prepare students for the use of generative AI and foster the necessary skills to engage with the technology sensibly. He stressed the importance of collaborative efforts with students to co-create the provided guidance, as opposed to imposing strict top-down measures. Transparent communication is vital, even when imposing restrictions, to ensure students understand the rationale behind them and discourage attempts to circumvent the rules.

Professor Michael Grove, Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education Policy and Standards) at the University of Birmingham, viewed the rise of generative AI as an opportunity to reassess assessment practices, rather than a threat. He emphasized the potential to redefine the role of assessment to enhance student learning and help students evaluate their own educational progress.

The introduction of AI literacy principles by UK universities aligns with the growing recognition of the need to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by generative AI in education. The guidance acknowledges the prevalence of AI tools among students and the importance of equipping them with the necessary skills to engage with these technologies responsibly.

By promoting AI literacy, universities aim to strike a balance between leveraging the benefits of generative AI and upholding academic integrity. While concerns about cheating and ethical considerations have been raised, the focus is on educating students about the appropriate use of AI in their studies and fostering awareness of potential pitfalls such as plagiarism, bias, and inaccuracies.

Recognizing the role of staff in supporting students, universities are investing in training programs to ensure educators are well-prepared to assist students who utilize generative AI tools. This proactive approach acknowledges the evolving landscape of education and the need for instructors to stay abreast of emerging technologies to provide effective guidance.

To adapt to the rise of generative AI, academic conduct policies and guidelines have undergone thorough review across all Russell Group universities. These policies now provide clear directives on the appropriate and inappropriate use of generative AI, empowering students and staff to make informed decisions and use these tools responsibly. The intention is to foster a culture of responsible AI usage while also recognizing and acknowledging its impact where necessary.

The development of these guiding principles has been a collaborative effort, involving experts in AI and education. This partnership highlights the commitment of universities to navigate the transformative potential of AI in higher education. As AI continues to shape the world, these principles provide a foundation for universities to adapt teaching and assessment methods, ensuring the ethical incorporation of AI and equal access for all students.

Leaders in the sector, such as Dr. Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, emphasize the enormous opportunities presented by AI. They view the principles as a testament to their dedication to seizing these opportunities while prioritizing the well-being of students and preserving the excellence of education within Russell Group universities.

For educators like Professor Andrew Brass from the University of Manchester, the focus is on student preparation and active collaboration. He believes that effective guidance should be co-created with students, taking their perspectives into account. Transparent communication about any imposed restrictions is essential to foster understanding and discourage attempts to circumvent the rules.

Professor Michael Grove from the University of Birmingham sees the rise of generative AI as a catalyst for reevaluating assessment practices. Rather than perceiving it as a threat, he views it as an opportunity to enhance student learning and encourage self-assessment.

The call for evidence by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan reflects the government's commitment to gathering insights and addressing the challenges and ethical considerations associated with generative AI in education. This initiative demonstrates the collaborative approach taken to shape policies and ensure education workers are well-prepared and informed.

The introduction of AI literacy principles by UK universities marks a significant step in preparing students and staff for the AI-driven future. By embracing these principles, institutions are equipping themselves to navigate the changing landscape of education and capitalize on the transformative potential of AI while upholding academic rigor and integrity.


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