The time has come for higher education to take a stand regarding AI – speakers at TwT

Dr Masanai Musara

In his book, The World News Prism, William A Hachten, advises that it was better to find a way to work with the waves of the sea, and not against it. In his opinion, it was futile to go against something so powerful. A similar sentiment was echoed in the Teaching with Technology Summit (TwT) that the University’s Teaching and Learning Centre (TLDC), hosted from 24-25 April 2024. One of the topics that were discussed was Artificial Intelligence (AI), and how it was impacting upon higher education. The need to embrace AI was emphasized by MUT Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Dr Manyane Makua, as he opened the summit. “As we witness AI permeating every aspect of our lives, from healthcare to transportation, it is imperative that we examine its implications on education, particularly in higher learning institutions. Artificial Intelligence holds the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and learn,” Dr Makua said.

Speakers like Dr Masanai Musara, from the University of Mpumalanga, made it clear that AI is here to stay; pushing against it would be futile. Dr Musara was delivering a presentation on Generative Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education Teaching and Learning: Laying the Foundation for a Responsive and Inclusive Policy Framework. “The best way to deal with the challenge was to find a way to harness its advantages, and how to deal with its side effects,” Dr Musara said. Dr Musara strongly argued for that embracing AI would benefit the students because the proliferation of AI technologies such as generative AI (ChatGPT, Germini, etc.) has brought about a plethora of opportunities, including AI-enhanced learning environments, enhancing academic administration and student support services.

Dr Musara laid bare the scenario in higher education. “The use of GenAI in academia has become a hotly debated topic. The fundamental question that arises is: Should we ban GenAI or should we embrace it? This question arises because of concerns that relate to the use of GenAI as well as the usefulness of GenAI. The answer is not a one-size-fits-all solution.” Dr Musara raised the following concerns: the level of GenAI accuracy; the algorithm bias; the fact that it may not be able to prevent the information from falling onto the wrong hands; lack of transparency; some people may not be able, or allowed to access information, while some may be excluded; there may be misuse of this technology by both students and staff in committing academic misconduct; and that some students and staff may not be able to develop the necessary critical thinking and academic writing skill. The latter concern was also raised by Dr Joseph Crawford, a guest speaker from the University of Tasmania, Australia.

Among others, Dr Musara was supported by Marva de la Coudray, Director of Teaching and Learning, Centre for Teaching Enhancement at London Metropolitan University, and Adriana Botha from Anthology. De la Coudray said that London Metropolitan University had already formulated a policy regarding the issue. De la Coudray emphasized that the policy was meant to advance the standard of education at the institution. Adriana Botha advised higher education institutions to design guidelines that are in line with their mission statement, vision, and other applicable guidelines.