Artificial intelligence (AI) has been part of our lives for decades, starting in 1950 when computer scientist Alan Turing proposed a test for machine intelligence. The launch of ChatGPT in December 2022 created an educational emergency similar in nature to the urgent pivot to online learning at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. As we did then, we seem to be learning, exploring, creating, and responding to AI in the moment — while it evolves — without much time to plan or formulate well-thought-out policies that will protect the quality and integrity of curricula.
Post by Helena Prins, advisor, Learning + Teaching, BCcampus
Some educators are excited about the potential of AI and are eagerly exploring new ways to integrate it into their course offerings, but others are overwhelmed by efforts to prevent it from entering their classrooms, advocating for proctoring tools to protect their exams and exploring how to prevent cheating.
My concern is that while we focus our attention on the bot in our classroom, chances are we are neglecting humans, which renders our busy efforts futile. One of the most effective ways to combat cheating is to build trust with your learners.
In Coalition of Writing Statement on AI Writing (2023), the authors write, “Decades of research indicate that most students behave honestly when they believe that a learning environment is equitable, that the work is relevant to their success, and that they are empowered to act with integrity”. In fact, most sessions I attend on AI in education include a moment where the presenter emphasizes the importance of building trust between educators and learners and providing an opportunity in your classroom to discuss the ethics of AI and how to use it appropriately in coursework.
Building a course community could happen spontaneously, but some intentional efforts and strategies are required, especially for online courses. Darby and Lang (2019) write, “When we facilitate the development of a robust and dynamic community of learners in an online class, we significantly increase the potential for individual student learning and success”. What follows is a list of strategies that contribute to a sense of community and trust between you and your learners. There isn’t much educators can do to slow down AI development, but you do have control of your own class environment, and it is prudent to prioritize the humans in these spaces.
- Be consistent, clear, and kind: Take a moment to greet students at the start of a session. Don’t just jump into the content! Make sure your syllabus is not too wordy, and where possible, keep instructions concise.
- Have regular check-ins: Whether you send out Monday morning messages or a weekly Friday wrap-up, students want to hear from you. A simple poll in your learning management system to check learners’ progress on an assignment or short warm-up or community-building activities throughout the semester not only strengthen your instructor presence but also “place our social natures as human beings front and center in the learning process” (Eyler, 2018, p. 83). You might find the BCcampus Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) community’s document Creating Course Community helpful.
- Ensure all course materials and activities are accessible: In his podcast, James Braverstock (2020) compared accessibility to blueberry muffins. When you are baking a blueberry muffin, you can’t stuff all the blueberries in after the baking process. Accessibility, like blueberries, needs to be baked in from the beginning. Include an accessibility statement at the start of your course that communicates your level of commitment to designing a course that is inclusive and welcoming to all students. Not sure how to do this? Check out how to create a welcoming accessibility statement.
- Encourage group work or co-creating activities: Cognitive and social presence are two of the three primary aspects of a community of inquiry (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 1999) that compel educators to provide opportunities for learners to draw new and creative connections with course material while opening up to new ideas and ways of understanding. Online learners want their instructors and cohort to see them as real people.
- Give a choice where and when possible: When you offer a choice, you increase the degree to which students feel connected to their learning and demonstrate you care about them as individual learners. Not sure where to start? Try to provide multiple media options.
- Celebrate successes and milestones: In my work team, we often take moments to celebrate the end of a project or a job well done. Sharing a sense of accomplishment brings us closer. You can achieve this sense of accomplishment in your courses too. Send a group message to congratulate students for submitting assignments on time, or when you are halfway through the course, take a moment to reflect on the learning and progress so far.
- Language matters: Use plain language wherever possible so students can understand what you expect of them the first time they read or hear your instructions. Words matter. Consider the difference between telling a learner to participate vs. inviting them to participate. Hone your intercultural communication skills to ensure all students feel welcome and understood. Start with something simple but important, like learning to pronounce students’ names correctly.
- Show your personal self (even if just a few times): Build connections with students by sharing an introductory video or a post where you share something about yourself. Research shows teachers with an authentic teaching style are more positively received by their students (Taylor & Francis, 2017). Use the time before and after class to chat with students, allow opportunities to share experiences throughout the semester, and make sure your actions and values align.
Let’s navigate this uncertain yet exciting time by supporting learners to define their competitive edge over bots and machines by modelling human skills and strategies that bots can’t simulate … yet!
BCcampus FLO Participants (2018- 2023) Community Building Activities and Resources. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ucwza2KefjUXhIhjSLt6eqPq0a0ZyLfkYNa-Qgmuqco/edit?usp=sharing
BCcampus (2022) UDL Explorer Series. Challenge 1: How to create a welcoming accessibility statement. Challenge 1: Create a Welcoming Accessibility Statement – UDL Challenge (opened.ca)
BCcampus (2022) UDL Explorer Series. Challenge 3: Provide Multiple Media Options. Challenge 3: Provide Multiple Media Options – UDL Challenge (opened.ca)
Braverstock, J. (2020) Accessibility is like a blueberry muffin. [Podcast] #2 Accessibility is like a blueberry muffin (kpodnar.com)
Darby, F. & Lang, J. (2019) Small Teaching Online: applying learning in online classes. Jossey-Bass.
Eyler, J. (2018) How Humans Learn The Sciences and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching. West Virginia University Press.
Nielson, D. & Worfolk, M. (2023) Plain Language and Design for Post-Secondary https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/cncplainlanguageanddesign/
Taylor & Francis. (2017, May 25). ‘Authentic’ teachers are better at engaging with their students. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 5, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170525195500.htm
UArizona Coalition of Writing (2023). Coalition of writing statement on AI writing. UCATT. https://ucatt.arizona.edu/news/coalition-writing-statement-AI-writin