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How ChatGPT May Change Higher Education


Artificial intelligence remains, for most people, a novelty. Having ChatGPT write a song about a writer who is also a duck, trying to stump it or demanding answers about its feelings can be fun distractions from the stress of daily life. But ChatGPT and the AI revolution it represents are more than amusing novelties.

We don’t yet know all that AI can do or learn to do, but even the current generation of technology has the power to change the world. AI in higher education poses some risks, but also presents an opportunity for growth, flexibility and a deeper understanding of the world. Here are some ways an AI chatbot can change the world of higher education and beyond. 

Ethical Issues with AI Chatbots in Higher Education

If you’re going back to college, you may find that things have changed a lot and that the world of academic cheating is much different than it used to be. Chatbots pose several ethical issues, including: 

  • Cheating: Students might use AI to write entrance essays, do their research, cite their sources or complete portions of their schoolwork. 
  • Innovative thought: Students may seek out AI bots to do research for them, potentially impeding their access to innovative thought. 
  • Bias: AI bots can only learn what they have been taught. This means that the answers they give and the research they cite may be biased or incomplete and will not present anything novel or innovative. 
  • Student applications: Schools want students who offer something unique. However, many students just want to get the application right so they can begin their next chapter. Some may use chatbots to complete entrance exams or write interview responses. 

AI for Research 

AI chatbots may make research easier for some students. And if the bots are programmed well, they may limit access to misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and unreliable sources. Using AI for research is neither all good nor all bad. Instead, it poses some unique issues and opportunities: 

  • Completeness: Using a chatbot for research is like relying on Wikipedia. A person may get access to a basic overview of the topic, but this is far from a full literature review and may not even include the most recent, credible or relevant research. 
  • Innovation: AI can only repeat what it has learned from someone else. It cannot offer new or innovative research. Students who rely solely on AI to do their research may miss out on important developments in their field. 
  • Flexible learning: Because chatbots speak in a conversational style, they may help students better understand complex research. For neurodivergent students, this may remove hurdles to learning. But relying exclusively on chatbots could eliminate the opportunity to learn how to read and synthesize data. 

AI in Teaching

AI may change the way instructors teach. Instructors might have to devote more time to ensuring students submit original, thoughtful work. They may have to educate students about the differences between researching and repeating what a bot told them. They may also need to develop innovative strategies to manage cheating. 

AI may also offer new opportunities. Students can use chatbots to explain concepts they don’t understand. Instructors may also use chatbots to guide their teaching. For example, a social sciences professor could ask a chatbot about a topic, then talk about what the bot left out and to what extent the bot repeats common misconceptions. This may deepen professors’ understanding of the messages students get in the wider culture, sharpening their teaching. 

Personalizing the Learning Experience

AI technology presents many opportunities for online learning, from personalized troubleshooting to quizzes and conversations tailored to a student’s needs. However, the benefits of AI extend beyond online learning. Students may gain access to a more customized experience, including: 

  • Conversations that inform professors about their specific needs. 
  • Homework and quizzes based on their learning goals. 
  • New and innovative disability accommodations. 
  • Increased classroom accessibility for learners with different needs. 

Automating Higher Ed Workflows

For many schools, the behind-the-scenes work of administration can be exhausting, expensive and time-consuming. AI intelligence affords myriad opportunities to streamline workflows. Some examples of how this might work include: 

  • Offering quality, reliable and automated tech support. 
  • Flexible, intelligent customer service addressing common issues.
  • Pre-screening students for various programs, such as counseling, financial aid, advanced classes and more. 
  • Supporting students as they navigate the financial aid process. 
  • Streamlining the application process. 
  • Recruiting and pre-screening quality students. 
  • Reducing overhead and bureaucracy so higher education institutions can focus on building exceptional academic programs. 

Changing the Career Landscape

Maintaining career stability is, for most students, a central goal of returning to school. Many people worry that AI will replace their job and undermine their hard work. 

So far, artificial intelligence can only replace jobs that can be fully automated and don’t require critical thinking. Even here, there’s usually a human to oversee the process. Think, for example, about how self-checkout usually works well but requires human oversight. 

AI could replace some jobs in theory, but the technology isn’t there yet. Many marketing campaigns, digital content creation and retail jobs may be partially replaced by artificial intelligence. But even here, we don’t yet know what AI will ultimately be able to do. The current generation of chatbots cannot generate new thoughts or revolutionary insights. They can only process and recite what someone taught them, limiting their ability to build new marketing campaigns, write opinion pieces or even fully replace customer service representatives. 

Even as AI technology evolves, the odds of it replacing these roles are very slim: 

  • Healthcare roles, including medical providers, mental health clinicians, nurses, physical therapists and so on.  
  • Educational roles, such as teachers or professors. 
  • Entertainment roles, such as comedians, sportscasters and athletes. 
  • Attorneys, judges and other legal system roles. 
  • Complex management and HR occupations, such as benefits managers and CEOs. 
  • Performers, such as singer-songwriters. 
  • Chefs and cooks. 

This is just a small sample. Most highly skilled jobs that require innovative, critical thinking may see some effects from AI, but are unlikely to go fully extinct. 

These examples are just scratching the surface of what’s possible. Four decades ago, few of us could have conceived how personal computers might one day change daily life. We are now at a similar precipice with AI in higher education. No one can fully predict what the future will hold. 

But one thing is certain: The demand for technology-literate workers will likely accelerate, and more education will always be valuable, no matter what you study or what career path you choose. Flexible careers are built on flexible degrees, so choosing a school that offers a comprehensive educational foundation is now more important than ever. 

Healthcare jobs are growing rapidly and are unlikely to change much as AI becomes more commonplace. Check out our list of the top recession-proof healthcare roles

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