February 6, 2023
Artificial Intelligence: A boon or bane for educators?
Dr Armin Alimardani’s prototypes showcase how AI tools can improve learning and teaching experience
ChatGPT has become a hot topic worldwide due to its potential to complete tasks – including university assignments –with minimal human input.
This has sparked global concern for educators, given that the AI tool can be used by students to complete assignments – including lengthy essays.
The end results are not always factually correct – or of HD standard – but the fact that material generated by an AI can often be difficult or impossible to distinguish from that written by a human raises grave academic integrity concerns.
While the uptake of AI tools such as ChatGPT raises many concerns, it also presents novel opportunities for educators to develop and implement new learning and teaching modes.
UOW’s Dr Armin Alimardani, from the School of Law researches the legal, social and ethical impacts of emerging technologies with a particular focus on AI.
For the past year, he and UNSW Associate Professor Emma A. Jane have collaborated to develop a toolkit of AI prototypes aimed at improving the quality of learning for students in forms such as providing instant feedback and engaging in friendly dialogue about key course topics.
Their Safe-to-fail AI site is home to a growing number of customisable AI tools for university teaching and research purposes. Unlike other tools on the market, they are not locked behind closely guarded corporate paywalls but are freely available.
“One of the key motivations behind the project is the need to democratise the development and use of emerging technologies like AI,” Dr Alimardani said.
“We believe it is important for non-experts to have a greater understanding of what AI can and can't do, and to have more control over how it is used and developed, rather than leaving it to commercial companies to shape the future of AI in education.
“Many big technology companies offer easy-to-use AI platforms, but these often come at significant costs, such as large upfront payments or opaque data harvesting. We wanted to create a platform that is accessible to everyone and that doesn't require any knowledge of coding. Our goal is to ensure that our universities, at least, don’t have to rely on such costly and potentially problematic solutions.”
Dr Alimardani and Associate Professor Jane have developed tools such as SmartTest, which is designed to help educators evaluate student understanding and provide instant feedback on answers to open-ended questions. It uses text provided by educators to assess student answers in real-time, giving immediate feedback that helps identify areas for student improvement and promotes critical thinking.
FAQ 2.0 is another tool offered on the Safe-to-fail AI website. It helps students quickly find answers to simple questions by allowing educators to upload their course outlines and queries related to their degrees.
With this tool, students can have fast and easy access to the information they need without having to sift through multiple pages or send repetitive emails to their teachers.
(a)icon is a conversational AI tool where users can chat about anything and receive answers to those queries over the course of a casual and personalised dialogue.
“While there has been much discussion surrounding the potential misuse of ChatGPT by students, our project is a prime example of looking at the flip side of AI – that is, how it can assist educators to save time and improve the quality of learning for students,” Dr Alimardani said.
“Our aim is to offer an interactive and engaging experience for students. It’s not intended to replace human interaction, but rather act as an additional support in students’ learning and development process.”
Safe-to-fail AI prototype can be accessed via this link https://safetofailai.streamlit.app/