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Friend or Foe? LWC Navigates Artificial Intelligence

By Alyssa Sharp

Staff Writer

As the digital landscape of artificial intelligence (AI) develops, a question arises: is AI a valuable ally in the pursuit of knowledge or an unsettling force threatening to change the foundation of a student’s experience?

Artificial intelligence is defined as the ability of a computer or a robot-controlled computer processing program created to do tasks that are usually done by humans.

Since they require human intelligence and understanding to work and be considered to have real information, AI is a valuable tool. However, it could be a positive or negative new application to own.

The growing usage of AI and Chat GPT for college students from spring 2023 to fall 2023 has increased by 81 percent, and the percentage for professors has increased by 144 percent, according to “Inside Higher Ed”.

Source: Inside Higher Ed, 2023.

Some concerns about students' increased use of AI have been about whether it is ethical for students to be able to ask AI a question to generate an answer and be able to use it.

“It’s cheating if we’re using it to demonstrate our knowledge of something,” said the Dean of the School of Business and Communication Dr. Benson Sexton.

When using AI and claiming it as your work, it blurs the lines between a student’s knowledge of the subject and what the AI can generate, raising concerns about whether students plagiarize or understand the material.

“I think it’s going to make people lazy and not put their thoughts and effort into, like, writing papers or emails or anything important for themselves...”

“I think it’s going to make people lazy and not put their thoughts and effort into, like, writing papers or emails or anything important for themselves,” said Lindsey Wilson College student Beth Streeval.

Artificial Intelligence can even affect productivity. Since students have all the information to ask a computer, it can answer any question anyone could ask. It could stunt the knowledge that future students have because they have AI as their personal safety net.

While AI is still relatively new, there are still lots of things to learn about it and how it could shape our world and future. Artificial intelligence can also be a tool that benefits a student's understanding.

“It has the potential to be used to create learning materials,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Ray Lutgring. “If you think about it, I’ve heard it described as a personal tutor. If you’ve got AI that's learning how to do personalized tutoring, it could benefit them [students] substantially in topics that they're struggling with.”

Along with being a personal tutor, AI can be used for researching general knowledge.

“AI can be used as a tool for knowledge,” said Dr. Sexton. “Sometimes we just need to get a quick collection of information about a topic, so we'll put it in ChatGPT because it sometimes takes out hours-long research. You have to always go back and check to make sure it's accurate, but it can be extremely useful.”

Adding AI to education has raised the question of whether education will become more online-integrated and its impact on students. This raises concerns about how the transition might impact students, given their preferred learning styles, with some favoring online learning while others thrive in traditional classroom settings.

Lutgring said classrooms could be completely transformed by AI to become more engaging and individualized. Educators can gain deeper insights into students' strengths and weaknesses using AI-powered tests, which enable specific instruction and customized educational plans.

“I think it’s going to depend on the student,” said Lutgring. “Not unlike online learning. Some students thrive in an online environment, while others do not thrive in an online environment and may thrive in a traditional classroom. And, some students don't thrive in a traditional classroom; they do better online. I think the difference is in the learning style.”

Artificial intelligence can detect areas where students are having difficulty and provide specialized assistance to help them catch up using adaptive learning algorithms. This could close the gap between students who excel and those who fall behind. Creating a more inclusive education will result in every student having the opportunity to succeed.

“I hope it doesn't because that takes away from the actual learning environment,” said Streeval. “I think it would be more like back in 2020, where we had to try and teach ourselves. You won’t be able to get that teacher’s or professor’s perspective.”

Artificial intelligence that promises enhanced learning experiences may inadvertently restrict students' critical thinking and creativity. As AI moves in, it will assume tasks previously performed by teachers and professors. There is a risk of losing the human touch and individual instruction essential for education.

"...I don't know that students truly understand the value of getting the knowledge they need to be able to demonstrate they can outperform, on the human level...”

“So, I don't know that students truly understand the value of getting the knowledge they need to be able to demonstrate they can outperform, on the human level,” said Sexton. “Because, I mean you walk into McDonald's now, there's machines. We have to show the human side of things, and to really show our value in the workplace.”

While AI can be programmed to perform specific tasks efficiently, it lacks communication skills and the caring, human touch that is crucial in a variety of professional settings. Through AI's integration, students must recognize the unique traits they bring to the workplace and their education, such as their ability to effectively communicate, connect with others, and navigate these personal interactions.

“Since then, that attitude has largely changed, in part because AI is not going away,” said Lutgring. “So, hopefully we're going to see something like that, that we adapt in how we do things and it's going to be a tool.”

Both Lutgring and Sexton agree that AI is not a passing trend. It is becoming deeply ingrained in our daily lives and is going to shape our future. They say we can be optimistic and open to incorporating this into our lives, or we can fight it knowing it is not going anywhere.

The ever-changing world of AI in education has started an interesting conversation in academia. From ethical concerns to the possibility of being the future's most promising educational tool leads to an important question: Is AI a student's enemy or friend?


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