"Create an AI-enabled model of education," advises Prof. Mairéad Pratschke

In the ever-evolving world of education, one buzzword that has stood out in the past year is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Generative AI and Large Language Model technologies, such as ChatGPT, are rapidly reshaping the education landscape.

Speaking at EDLAB's Continuing Professional Development Kick-Off event on 26 September 2023, Prof. Mairéad Pratschke, Chair in Digital Education at The University of Manchester, encouraged Maastricht University teachers and educators to investigate AI technologies for themselves.

In particular, Pratschke advised teachers and educators to assert their influence in shaping the impact of AI tools on education. "Whether good or bad, AI tools will impact education," she cautioned.

AI in education

"AI is both terrifying and wonderful"

Pratschke elaborated on the latest technological advancements and their applications, swiftly meandering through topics such as the evolution of AI, its potential and risks. 

She demonstrated how an AI technology such as ChatGPT can enhance individualised learning experiences by customising content and support to meet the specific needs of students. "Technology can be a powerful tool for improving the teaching and assessment processes," she said. "AI-driven tools that offer immediate feedback to students have the potential to transform traditional exams and assignments." Such tools would help students understand their strengths and weaknesses, while also assisting educators in pinpointing areas where additional support may be necessary.

Prof. Pratschke also discussed the fears that educators have about the potential for academic malpractice and the need to address them.

The atmosphere in the room was fascinating to witness, as all attendees, who were UM teaching staff, appeared deeply engrossed, nodding continuously as she spoke. 

How will AI impact teaching and learning at Maastricht University?

To me, the heart of the event was the free-flowing discussion that enfolded after the lecture, where attendees engaged in informal conversations about the impact of AI in higher education. It wasn’t a one-way exchange but a lively sharing of perspectives. Participants reflected on the lecture’s key insights and how these related to their own teaching experiences.

Educators shared their encounters with AI, voiced their concerns, and explored the boundless possibilities brought forth by Web 4.0. Many participants seemed to concur that AI is an invaluable ally for educators, capable of addressing some of the most difficult challenges in higher education.

The discussion naturally delved around our immediate environment, Maastricht University, touching on how our university can or should get involved in the "AI revolution in education", how educators can shape the integration of recent teaching developments, and the implications of such changes for students.

"Whether good or bad, AI tools will impact education"

The event aimed to give UM teaching staff a deeper understanding of AI’s potential and ideas for integrating AI into their teaching practices. It presented both the positive and negative aspects of AI and offered an overview of what teachers and educators should expect in the near future.

Prof. Pratschke said that the EdTech companies are not lagging behind the broader tech industry, with tools like Instructure’s Canvas, which is used at UM, already incorporating AI-based solutions. She encouraged UM educators to think about AI’s transformative power in higher education and to contribute to building a truly AI-enabled education model. 

After listening to the lecture and participating in subsequent conversations, I felt like we were approaching a point where education, as a whole, is on the brink of a dramatic transformation. It’s fascinating to be part of this evolving landscape. If this event served as the start of the year for Continuing Professional Development at EDLAB, I’m eager to see the stimulating topics that future events will explore.

By Damian Chmielewski, EDLAB Student Assistant, Bachelor Student Law Faculty

Lecture recording: The Era of AI and its impact on Higher Education - Prof. Mairéad Pratschke

Prof. Mairéad Pratschke's presentation provided valuable insights into how education is changing in the age of AI.

She offered practical steps we can take to adjust to this transformation, focusing on improving our teaching techniques, redefining what students should achieve, and rethinking how we assess them in response to the increasing impact of AI.

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