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ASU faculty dive deep into the possibilities of AI-learning

Aerial view of a crowd of people gathered at round tables in a large room.

Faculty members break into small groups to talk about their experiences using generative AI to enhance teaching and learning at ASU on Monday, Sept. 18, at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix. Photo by Mike Sanchez/Enterprise Technology

September 20, 2023

Recognized as the nation’s most innovative university by U.S. News & World Report for nine years and counting, Arizona State University is at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. And with the introduction of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools challenging the status quo of education, ASU is leading efforts to advance AI for positive impact. 

Generative AI, a subset of artificial intelligence, is poised to transform the learning experience in higher education. Already these sophisticated tools are capable of creating content — ranging from written articles to visual designs — based on patterns it identifies from vast amounts of data. 

In order to advance AI for positive impact, ASU has formed the Generative AI (GenAI) Community of Practice, a cross-enterprise effort to explore how AI can best serve the educational needs of students and learners.

On Monday, Sept. 18, more than 50 faculty and university leaders gathered at the Thunderbird School of Global Management for ASU’s GenAI Community of Practice inaugural convening. 

“We expect these gatherings to be dynamic and change as we move along and as we give faculty resources to help them realize the potential offered by generative AI tools,” said Danielle McNamara, executive director of ASU’s Learning Engineering Institute. “And that's why we're here today — because we want to help unlock learners and instructors' full potential.”

McNamara, along with Vice Provost for undergraduate education Anne Jones, Executive Director of learning technology Gemma Garcia, Senior Director of learning experience Allison Hall and others, helped to lead the daylong interactive session. Together, participants began to delve into a range of topics from the application of AI-powered chatbots in higher education to the intricacies of providing personalized learning for students. Attendees shared updates on their current projects, insights into AI-driven opportunities and actionable steps the ASU community can take to embrace emerging AI tools. 

“We’re building a foundation that allows us to really embrace AI long term,” said Auryan Ratcliff, associate director of immersive experiences at ASU’s EdPlus. “And that starts with building an AI-first culture.”

At ASU, faculty across disciplines are already harnessing AI tools to provide personalized learning experiencesgenerate course content and even assist in creative arts projects. However, its rise also necessitates a renewed focus on ethical considerations, ensuring its use aligns with educational standards and values.

“When we are talking about generative AI, are we thinking big enough and how this technology is going to fundamentally change the world we live in for the next 10 to 20 years?” said Andrew Maynard, professor at ASU's School for the Future of Innovation in Society. “And we must also ensure that we include everybody within the institution to drive change at every single level.” 

The GenAI Community of Practice is a collaborative effort across the university, with executive leadership including:

  • Nancy Gonzalez, university provost.
  • Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of ASU’s Learning Enterprise.
  • Lev Gonick, chief information officer.

“At ASU, we embrace generative AI not as a replacement for human intelligence but as a tool to enhance our collective creativity and problem-solving,” Gonick said while speaking at a previous convening on the state of AI in action at ASU.

Gonick went on to share the importance of cross-disciplinary efforts such as the GenAI Community of Practice: “By building collaborative alliances across the ASU enterprise, we leverage AI to create positive outcomes for students, pave new pathways for research, and develop the technical infrastructure for more operational excellence.”

Learn more about ASU’s GenAI Community of Practice here.

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