Online: Trending Now

Unique biweekly insights and news review
from Ray Schroeder, Senior Fellow at UPCEA

AI is Impacting Education, But the Best is Yet to Come!

When generative AI came rolling out of development lab obscurity last year, most of us were surprised – even shocked. AI has always been a path to streamline production and distribution. In the past, it had come to replace blue collar jobs. When I first tried it out in August, I wrote in this column, “Higher Ed, Meet GPT-3: We Will Never Be the Same!” I was astounded at the speed and cogency of GPT in answering complex questions with multiple paragraphs in the blink of an eye. Half a year later, it is time for an update as I prepare to travel to the UPCEA Annual Conference in Washington DC where AI will be high among the topics of conversation.

First, know that this technology is nuanced, it is not just OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Generative AI covers a wide range of applications and tools. I now keep shortcuts to three different versions of generative AI on my laptop and phone home screen. I use all three daily. There are many hosts for the basic technology using various versions of knowledge bases and configured to present results with multiple features. Yes, I sprang for the $20/month for ChatGPT Plus. It is ready for me on a click’s notice. Yet, another app I have found useful every day is Perplexity. I am most taken with the auto-embedded citations of sources in the response, much like we do in research papers. This is most useful for deeper digging into topics. Its knowledge base is not delimited to 2021 as is ChatGPT. A somewhat flashier app is This is also free as of now and has the benefit of the added “/imagine” extension that opens an image generator. Refining prompt inputs to the text-to-image generator is worthwhile to have copyright free images designed to your specifications.

A fourth application that holds great potential to those of us in higher ed is ChatPDF! It is what you might imagine, a tool that allows you to load a PDF of up to 120 pages in length. You can then apply the now-familiar ChatGPT analysis approach to the document itself. Ask for a summary. Dig into specifics. This will be a useful tool for reviewing research and efficiently understanding complex rulings and other legal documents.

In these examples, the tools are mostly using GPT 3.5 with some advanced features promised to come in the full release of GPT 4.0, expected in the near future. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman hints at the soon-to-come multimodal GPT ahead of the 4.0 release, possibly allowing for moving smoothly among text, images and other modes but not yet video, which he says will come later. Not to be forgotten is the Google product, “Bard” that launched to a stumbling start by giving a wrong answer in the very public reveal of the LaMBDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) – powered application. Now in restricted Beta release, it is expected to provide a credible competition to ChatGPT

Much has been made of the possibility of cheating by students using generative AI. Yet, it seems that faculty are much more likely to use the products to enhance their teaching and research rather than students are to use it to cheat

It is clear that generative AI has enormous potential in higher education. It auto-updates its knowledge base far more frequently and deeply than faculty possibly can. Yes, ChatGPT is delimited by a 2021 cutoff of knowledge, but that doesn’t have to be the case, nor will it be in the future. In a just released study “How will Language Modelers like ChatGPT Affect Occupations and Industries?” by Ed Felten (Princeton), Manav Raj (University of Pennsylvania), and Robert Seamans (New York University) the case is made that generative AI has the potential to impact teaching in many fields. The researchers applied an AI Occupational Exposure (AIOE) measure, developed in 2021, to determine which human requirements for a position most overlapped with generative AI capabilities. In one of the listings reviewed by the researchers of most likely to be affected career fields, 14 of the top 20 occupations were faculty positions in a wide range of fields. A CBS News report on the paper discusses the relative extent to which this predicts job augmentation or rather job substitution.

Longer-term advances in applying AI to learning are coming along, but at a measured – or sometimes a rather stumbling – pace. Neuralink, a subsidiary company owned by Elon Musk, continues its research into direct brain-computer interfacing. However, it has run into repeated regulatory obstacles. The FDA has just blocked a request to begin human trials in implanting chips into human brains. Some pessimism is centered on the company’s understanding of current regulations and attention to regulators. 

Johns-Hopkins researchers are examining the potential of using human stem cells to power a kind of organic computing:

It’s called organoid intelligence, or OI, and it uses actual human brain cells to make computing “more brain-like.” OI revolves around using organoids, or clusters of living tissue grown from stem cells that behave similarly to organs, as biological hardware that powers algorithmic systems. The hope—over at Johns Hopkins, at least—is that it’ll facilitate more advanced learning than a conventional computer can, resulting in richer feedback and better decision-making than AI can provide. 

Of course, there are both technological and ethical considerations to be addressed as this model moves forward.

Much of the interesting work in the coming months will be to design interfaces to adapt the technology to actual work roles in both supportive and possibly in replacement modes. Generative AI already creates lesson plans, grades assignments, advises students, and answers learner questions. Can it competently take on class management and the other associated administrative tasks? And, certainly, generative AI has an important role to play in research. Will it become a formal or informal co-investigator and co-author of research? What status will we give generative AI in higher ed? And, what will happen to the human faculty aspirants who fail to measure up? I am looking forward to discussing these questions as we prepare for our generative AI partnership in higher ed.


This article was originally published in Inside Higher Ed’s Transforming Teaching & Learning

A man "Ray Schroeder" is dressed in a suit with a blue tie and wearing glasses.

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

Greeting the Student of the Future on their Terms at the Digital Storefront

We are emerging from the pandemic and the higher education landscape is daunting. The battle for funding and student loan debt relief is tied up in the court system.  New statements have been released from the Department of Education regarding bundled services and third-party providers. Politics are at play regarding college systems in Florida and…

Read More

Creating Non-Credit to Credit Pathways

Alternative credential experts identify the conditions necessary to design and deliver non-credit to credit pathways at postsecondary institutions. Over the course of 2022, the Typology, Terminology, and Standards Subcommittee[1] of the Council for Credential Innovation discussed the conditions necessary to create non-credit to credit pathways at postsecondary institutions. Their deliberations eventually narrowed to non-credit learning…

Read More

As Colleges Focus on Quality in Online Learning, Advocates Ask: What About In-Person Courses? (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

As colleges’ online catalogs grow, so too has the push to develop standards of quality for those courses. But are in-person classes getting the same attention? If you ask many online-education advocates, the answer is “no.” While decades of research and the pandemic-spurred expansion of online learning have helped demystify it and build confidence in…

Read More

Employers Are All In on Microcredentials, Survey Shows (Inside Higher Ed)

Ninety-five percent of employers see benefits in their employees accruing microcredentials, according to a new survey from Collegis Education and UPCEA, the association for college and university leaders in online and professional continuing education. Among the leaders surveyed from 500 organizations, 76 percent said pursuing microcredentials demonstrates an employee’s willingness to develop their skills, 63 percent said it…

Read More

Employer Demand for Microcredentials On the Rise, New Study From UPCEA and Collegis Education Reveals

Nearly 100 percent of organizational leaders see benefits from employees having microcredentials WASHINGTON (February 22, 2023) — Employer demand for microcredentials is on the rise, according to a new study released today by UPCEA, the association for college and university leaders in online and professional continuing education, and Collegis Education. The report, “The Effect of…

Read More

IMPORTANT UPDATES – Third-Party Servicer and Recruitment Compensation Updates from US Department of Education | Policy Matters (February 2023)

Major Updates NOTE: This post has been updated since its original publishing to include extended deadlines provided by the Department of Education. Some substantial items for UPCEA members to review from the US Department of Education were announced last week. The long-expected Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on Third-Party Servicers (TPS) and public comment periods on…

Read More

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.

UPCEA is dedicated to advancing quality online learning at the institutional level. UPCEA is uniquely focused on excellence at the highest levels – leadership, administration, strategy – applying a macro lens to the online teaching and learning enterprise. Its engaged members include the stewards of online learning at most of the leading universities in the nation.

We offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.

Click here to learn more.

The Nation's Top Universities Choose UPCEA Consulting

Informed decisions. Ideas that work. The data you need. Trusted by the top universities in the nation.