In April 2023, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) undertook a national survey to ascertain how and why postsecondary institutions are using Artificial Intelligence to support instruction and learning, what policies are in place, and what are the perceived barriers to, and benefits for, its use. Guiding research questions included:

  • How and to what extent are postsecondary institutions across the U.S. using AI?
  • Where is the greatest uptake, use, and impact of AI within and across institutions? 
  • What key issues and challenges are affecting AI use for institutions? 
  • What is the potential for its use?
  • What types of AI are most likely to impact higher education? 
Cover of AI Report

The resulting report, co-authored by Judith Sebesta (Sebesta Education Consulting) and Van L. Davis (WCET), Supporting Instruction and Learning Through Artificial Intelligence: A Survey of Institutional Practices and Policies, explores the current state of AI adoption on campuses across the United States as well as makes several recommendations for institutions looking to better leverage artificial intelligence.

Key Findings and Insights

Upon analyzing the over 600 responses, Sebesta and Davis developed several key findings and insights around AI utilization; support, incentives, and training; strategy, planning, and policy; and the challenges and benefits of AI. Some of those key findings include:

Utilization

  • Using AI to support instruction and learning is nascent on many campuses, although some have been using it for this and other purposes for years. 
  • Concerns about AI and academic integrity – i.e. preventing cheating – are a focus for many institutions and the top reason given for not using AI.
  • At the majority of institutions, use of AI to support instruction and learning at the institution is on the radar or scattered but there is no systemic action yet. The highest percentage of existing, planned, or considered use is for detecting AI-generated content or plagiarism, with editing and content creation close behind.

Support, Incentives, and Training

  • Online and Distance Education Administrators and Staff, including Instructional Designers, are the primary roles who are leading this work on their campuses, with faculty and Chief Academic Officers and Provosts (as well as Associate and Assistant CAO/Provosts) close behind. Additionally, on some campuses leaders at the highest level are being engaged in work around AI – and some are including students in AI policy development and practice as well. 
  • The overwhelming majority of institutions do not offer incentives to encourage faculty to use AI, and a majority also reported no faculty development or training around AI.

Strategy, Planning, and Policy

  • The majority of institutions lack official strategy around the use of AI but have or will be developing policies, primarily around academic integrity and instructional use.
  • Some institutions are adapting existing policies to include the use of AI.

Challenges and Benefits

Painting of a robotic looking figure looking at a college campus
Image of “AI on a college campus,” created by Bing AI Image Creator
  • The primary challenge to using AI was lack of expertise among faculty and administrators, followed closely by lack of policies and guidelines and concerns about protecting academic integrity.
  • A majority of respondents identified both teaching critical digital skills and learner engagement as the top benefits to using AI to support instruction and learning. Interviews confirmed a need for a new, “digital literacy 2.0” – for both students and faculty – as well as an imperative to include industry in conversations and planning to prepare students for a workforce already using AI. But a new version of the “digital divide” may result from lack of access to training and skills acquisition around AI.

Overall, attitudes about the use of Artificial Intelligence to support instruction and learning range from optimism and excitement about the possibilities, to skepticism and even fear.

A number of respondents expressed that they just don’t know enough about the technologies to be able to predict their impact on the landscape of higher education. One respondent captured what seems to be a common sentiment: “It is the wild wild west. And we don’t have any horses.” And one interviewee argued that AI will upend the very nature of what we do: “The bigger question becomes: What is learning? What is a college education?”

Recommendations

Based on the findings of the survey, as well as interviews with six higher education administrators, staff, and faculty, we have developed a number of recommendations of best practices for the use of AI to support instruction and learning. We understand that each institution and organization has its own unique situations and, therefore, these recommendations may not apply to all. Nevertheless, we hope they will help institutions better plan for, develop, and implement Artificial Intelligence to support student success. 

  • Create clear, consistent, well-developed policies around the use of AI for faculty, students, and others not only to address academic integrity but to anticipate the range of potential instructional uses, intellectual property issues, and others relevant to your context, being sure to include students in policy development.
  • Provide a secure environment around the use of AI, addressing growing concerns regarding data privacy and AI, through policy, training, and practice. 
  • Leverage AI as a powerful tool to support increased equity for learners, ensuring learner accessibility as well as adequate campus resources, and mitigate impediments to equity in the use of AI.
  • Develop and teach digital literacy centered on the use of AI to better prepare learners for its utilization in a wide range of workforce sectors.
  • Review and update course and program curricula regularly to ensure alignment with current, relevant AI skills students will need to succeed in the workforce. 
  • Allocate resources, where possible, to offer ongoing, diverse trainings, both formal and informal, on using AI to support instruction and learning to address the gap in knowledge of AI for faculty, staff, administrators, and students as well.
  • Engage as many disciplines, departments, and offices internally across the institution and organization – and externally in industry – as possible to develop policy, train, and build a community of practice around AI. 
  • Offer low-risk, collaborative and exploratory opportunities for faculty, students, staff, and administrators to explore and discuss Al.

Conclusion

WCET recognizes that institutions often have limited resources to experiment and collaborate. But as some of our survey respondents pointed out, the use of Artificial Intelligence in higher education – and in other sectors and society in general – likely is not going anywhere and might be well on its way to ubiquity. As one administrator suggested:

[AI] is maybe different in magnitude, but not kind, from the internet. The internet also made plagiarism easier, etc., but it brought great benefits for, say, connecting with students. All advances have drawbacks — I think it’s critical that higher education be thoughtful in our use to try to promote student benefit and avoid abuses.

WCET is committed to assisting its member institutions and all in higher education with navigating those drawbacks while taking full advantage of the advances. You can find existing posts, papers, and webinars on using AI to support instruction and learning on the Artificial Intelligence Resource page on the WCET website. Stay tuned for additional upcoming initiatives and resources on supporting instruction and learning through AI, including an October 25, 2023 pre-conference workshop for WCET members at our Annual Meeting in New Orleans.


Van Davis

Chief Strategy Officer, WCET


vdavis@wiche.edu

LinkedIn Profile

Subscribe

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,358 other subscribers

Archive By Month

Blog Tags

Distance Education (314)Student Success (292)Online Learning (228)Managing Digital Learning (218)State Authorization (212)WCET (211)U.S. Department of Education (202)Regulation (195)Technology (166)Digital Learning (149)Innovation (125)Teaching (120)Collaboration/Community (114)WCET Annual Meeting (105)Course Design (103)Access (97)Professional Development (97)Faculty (88)Cost of Instruction (88)SAN (86)Financial Aid (84)Legislation (83)Completion (74)Assessment (69)Instructional Design (68)Open Educational Resources (66)Accreditation (64)COVID-19 (64)SARA (64)Accessibility (62)Credentials (62)Professional Licensure (62)Quality (62)Competency-based Education (61)Data and Analytics (60)Research (58)Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (56)Reciprocity (55)WOW Award (51)Outcomes (47)Workforce/Employment (45)Regular and Substantive Interaction (43)Policy (42)Higher Education Act (41)Negotiated Rulemaking (39)Virtual/Augmented Reality (37)Title IV (36)Practice (35)Academic Integrity (34)Disaster Planning/Recovery (34)Leadership (34)WCET Awards (30)Every Learner Everywhere (29)IPEDS (28)Adaptive/Personalized Learning (28)Reauthorization (28)Military and Veterans (27)State Authorization Network (27)Survey (27)Credits (26)Disabilities (25)MOOC (23)WCET Summit (23)Evaluation (22)Retention (21)Enrollment (21)Complaint Process (20)Artificial Intelligence (19)Correspondence Course (18)Physical Presence (17)WICHE (17)Cybersecurity (16)Member-Only (16)Products and Services (16)Forprofit Universities (15)WCET Webcast (15)Blended/Hybrid Learning (14)System/Consortia (14)Digital Divide (14)NCOER (14)Textbooks (14)Mobile Learning (13)Consortia (13)Personalized Learning (12)Futures (11)Marketing (11)Privacy (11)STEM (11)Prior Learning Assessment (10)Courseware (10)Teacher Prep (10)Social Media (9)LMS (9)Rankings (9)Standards (8)Student Authentication (8)Partnership (8)Tuition and Fees (7)Readiness and Developmental Courses (7)What's Next (7)International Students (6)K-12 (6)Lab Courses (6)Nursing (6)Remote Learning (6)Testing (6)Graduation (6)Proctoring (5)Closer Conversation (5)ROI (5)DETA (5)Game-based/Gamification (5)Dual Enrollment (4)Outsourcing (4)Coding (4)Security (4)Higher Education Trends (4)Mental Health (4)Fall and Beyond Series (3)In a Time of Crisis (3)Net Neutrality (3)Universal Design for Learning (3)Cheating Syndicates Series (3)ChatGPT (3)Enrollment Shift (3)Nontraditional Learners (2)Student Identity Verification (2)Cross Skilling/Reskilling (2)Higher Education (2)Title IX (1)Virtual Summit (1)Business of Higher Education (1)OPMs (1)Department of Education (1)Third-Party Servicers (1)microcredentials (1)Minority Serving Institution (1)