The Emerging New Task and Partner for Higher Education
We have a new partner in higher education to assist with fulfilling our primary mission.
What is our primary mission? I turned to our new partner to briefly articulate that, “The primary mission of higher education is to provide advanced learning opportunities beyond the high school level, with the aim of developing a highly skilled and educated workforce, advancing research and knowledge, and promoting critical thinking and personal development.” That was the leading sentence of ChatGPT Plus on 2/18/2023 using default parameters responding to the prompt “What is the primary mission of higher education?”
The generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) app went on to note that “Higher education institutions, such as universities, colleges, and vocational schools, offer various degree programs, certifications, and training opportunities that provide students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to succeed in their chosen fields.” In order to accomplish that lofty mission, we face the intimidating new challenge of preparing our learners to integrate and optimize AI into their careers and vision of the future. We would be negligent if we were to fail to prepare the learners for what Stanford Professor, innovator, and CEO of Udacity, Sebastian Thrun, says is, “The single biggest thing we are ever going to see in our lifetime.”
This is not a task for next year, next semester or even next month. It is the most important role change and challenge for us today. We must not let the graduating class of 2023 leave their commencement ceremonies without a foundational understanding of what AI is and how it will impact their future careers. If, as ChatGPT says, our mission includes to “provide students with knowledge, skills and experiences to succeed in their chosen fields,” we must not ignore the now-certain role of AI in all professional fields. Yet, I suspect in many disciplines that has been ignored, while faculty continue to teach the skills and opportunities of the prior decades.
In earlier waves of AI and robotics, blue collar jobs were most affected. Notably assembly line and other factory workers doing repetitive assembly jobs found their jobs taken by the more accurate, less expensive, and efficient AI-driven machines. Today, most importantly to colleges and universities, the jobs that are becoming vulnerable to generative AI are those that include a wide swath of the graduates who will be seated in robes at graduation ceremonies in May, confident that they are prepared for white-collar careers. When we survey these 2023 graduates three years from now, what will they say regarding how well prepared they were for their careers?
Aaron Mok and Jacob Zinkula write in Business Insider, “ChatGPT may be coming for our jobs. Here are the 10 roles that AI is most likely to replace.” Among the ten are Tech jobs (Coders, computer programmers, software engineers, data analysts); Media jobs (advertising, content creation, technical writing, journalism); Legal industry jobs (paralegals, legal assistants); and Finance jobs (Financial analysts, personal financial advisors). And, that’s not even half the top ten fields listed by Mok and Zinkula.
A new Pew Research Center survey reports that many Americans are aware of common ways they might encounter artificial intelligence (AI) in daily life, such as customer service chatbots and product recommendations based on previous purchases. However, only 30% of U.S. adults are able to correctly identify all six uses of AI asked about in the survey, highlighting the incomplete and still-developing nature of public understanding. That would seem to be true about the depth of faculty understanding of how AI is now, or will be soon affecting the careers for which their students are preparing.
How, then, do we assure that our faculty members are fully aware of the AI trends and potential in their disciplines? Can we bring home to them the message of just how impactful AI will be in careers?
One response to consider is to train faculty members, small groups at a time, on how to responsibly and effectively use generative AI in their own work, such as revising syllabi and lesson plans. I don’t mean merely using the default parameters in crafting ChatGPT prompts, but rather to dig a bit deeper to understand and use such parameters as temperature, model engine, in-the-voice-of, and number to better test out the potential of the tool.
While we need to inform faculty members now, we must also recognize that this is a tool that is undergoing active development and updates. Competition is bringing other tools that will offer up-to-the-minute knowledge bases, more options, and become more reliable than the current edition of ChatGPT, which of course also will revise and improve. So, we must project those improvements just as one might have projected in 1988 what the then-newly-released Motorola “Bag Phone” would evolve into hand-held smart phones first released in 1994 and the iPhone in 2007. The development of generative AI will come much more rapidly than the mobile phone evolution, in part because it is made available via user software that can be updated seamlessly on existing hardware.
In turn, faculty members must perform the due diligence of bringing their teaching into line with the changing careers that students in their field of study are likely to pursue. For undergraduate students paying an average of more than $100,000 for a college education, there is an expectation for nothing less. We must teach for the future, not through the rear-view mirror. It is unconscionable for students who receive less than forward-leaning teaching. Imagine whole classes of students carrying tens of thousands of dollars in college debt, to emerge unqualified for employment because the faculty did not go to the effort to research trends and developments in order to teach toward the jobs that will be available in 2025 and beyond!
Fortunately, we have a new partner in generative AI that will help us keep abreast of the trends and forecasts. We need to share what we learn now about how to get the most out of our AI partner with our students this semester. They must become fully facile with the technology as soon as possible. This cannot be left to chance, or to someone else, because the ever-evolving generative AI will be our students’ partner as they launch their own careers. Their jobs and futures depend upon it.
This article was originally published in Inside Higher Ed’s Transforming Teaching + Learning blog.
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 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.