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

The AI-Augmented Professor of 2024

It is early August 2024.  I am about to begin the fall term of teaching, research, administrative tasks and advising with the help of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) tools and assistants. 

My syllabus was already submitted a couple of months ago so it is available online to all who may want to register. I did the annual update using a couple of GenAI chatbots that added a new lecture or two, some new graphics and a new introductory field-specific vocabulary quiz. They also created upgraded new authentic assessments to adjust to changes in the field, keeping the material up to date and relevant. The grading rubrics were refined and adjusted as necessary. The entire update process was completed in one afternoon hour last May.

I have added a module on professional applications in the field. This will involve a weeklong study during the middle of the term. My AI personal assistant reached out via emails it had found for the directors of HR at three regional firms who have hired many of our graduates in the past. The personal assistant briefed them on the course and got on their schedules to do in-class interviews via Zoom. All are on my schedule with times and connections. A reminder will be automatically sent out to the HR directors as well as put on my calendar and in the updated syllabus.  I will be asking the HR director about their hiring needs this coming year for new graduates as well as certificate completers from my university. Students will have a chance to pose some individual questions. I am hoping we will get into some serious career advice on where employment in my field is going. 

Students in the class will have access to their GenAI apps to formulate questions that are relevant to their own preferences and career choices. This is part of our department-wide emphasis on career development in an AI world. Also, part of that initiative is group work by the students using GenAI apps to lead their groups. Each group will report out with a collaboratively-written 10-page paper.

Fortunately, this fall I will have a version of the Khanmigo tutor that will answer students’ questions about assignments and discussion topics. Khanmigo will also help students with mini-lessons and quizzes to bring them up to speed in areas in which they fell short on prerequisites for the class. Khanmigo serves as a 24-hour smart tutor which has been trained on the course materials as well as other associated topics. The tutor, like the one developed by Khan Academy, is both empathetic and helpful.

Meanwhile my research project continues to percolate along with my personal AI agent sending out surveys, gathering data, crunching the numbers and applying advanced analytics to find previously-hidden correlations among demographic characteristics gathered from the samples. My AI agent is communicating with my co-author’s agent to ensure that we both are up to speed even though we live on different continents. The two agents are scanning journals and international conferences for the most appropriate venues for delivery of the final product of our research.

I am planning to go to the annual UPCEA conference in Denver in the spring. Today, I’ll ask my personal digital agent to gather all of the relevant registration, hotel and travel materials and give me a report to send to the dean’s office. I should get approval by the end of the week, and I’ll redirect that to the agent who will book the travel, hotel and registration. 

It’s so hard to keep up with the field, especially when you teach in communication technologies. Fortunately, my agent thoroughly scans all relevant articles and videos that come out from many hundreds of different sources, including research reports, journals, events coverage, YouTube videos, and associations. I get a daily, prioritized summary which I read each evening. I can extract entire articles with citations and put them in my very large cloud storage site. It’s easy to transfer AI-generated summaries to handouts for the class and put them into the ever-growing reading list for the class.

I am most thankful for the technology that spares me much of the pain of my five committee assignments. It seems a shame that faculty committees still run most universities. While we hate to surrender our oversight, the committees are the bane of so many faculty members, taking up far more time than seems worthwhile. Fortunately, our meeting software takes the minutes, advises on Roberts Rules of Order, summarizes the meetings, finds meeting times that work out best on all members’ calendars, and prepares the corrected minutes for the record.

As with so many of my colleagues, I am on the outlook for a new position where the financial conditions of the institution are stable, the community offers opportunities for my family, research support in my field is strong, and there is the opportunity to engage bright graduate students and postdocs into my field of research. Once again, it is my personal autonomous AI agent who is at work 24 hours a day seeking opportunities from the point of rumors on discussion boards to official position opening announcements. 

The above is what I anticipate will be reality for savvy faculty members in the fall of this year. Versions of the technology capabilities mentioned are already available. We are likely to see even more robust autonomous artificial agents than I describe. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is predicted to arrive this fall. And, some scientists predict Artificial Super-Intelligence will follow in 2027.

The technology is advancing at a much faster speed than most anyone predicted. It is propelled by unprecedented investments by many of the largest corporations around the world. The promise of massive profits for those who develop advanced marketable programs drives previously unexpected partnerships.

The message for those of us in higher education is that we must pay close attention to these developments for the sake of our students, our institutions and ourselves. 


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

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.

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