Universities and AI don’t have to be enemies

One of the world’s most well-regarded tech analysts wants universities to see AI as more than just a cheating tool. But how do teachers feel about that?

Driving the news: Teachers should be coaching students through how to best use AI in the workforce. That’s a key takeaway from Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends report, which is about how higher education should embrace AI.

  • AI lets students easily find all the information they need. Leaning into that gives them more time to develop critical thinking, creativity, and soft skills.
     
  • Professors could also use AI for crafting personalized lesson plans, analyzing student performance, or doing time-intensive admin tasks so they can be more productive.

What they’re saying: Mark Daley, chief AI officer and professor at Western University, says that it’s important to not just teach students how to use AI, but when and why to use it by helping them understand human values and ethics.

  • Education can shape “thoughtful, ethical humans ready to navigate an AI-saturated world,” he says. “[If AI] can do anything, the most valuable skill will be knowing what's worth doing ourselves.”

Zoom out: Sharon Lauricella, a professor at Ontario Tech University focused on technology in learning, says generative AI accelerated a long-standing need for teaching innovation.

  • If essays and tests can be completed with AI, or even a Google search, then they’re a poor way to evaluate students’ knowledge, creativity, and adaptability.
     
  • It’s about using AI as a tool to teach students how to adapt to new tech, or to create fun learning environments that make students eager to learn.

Bottom line: A big part of Meeker’s analysis is giving schools a better sales pitch. University enrolment among Canadians is on a steady decline, with schools like York, Concordia, and McGill sounding the alarm. Would-be students seem less willing to pay for a degree that doesn’t give them a leg up in the job market.