Worried about being priced out of using AI? Here are some practical steps to get started

Nearly one-third (32%) of surveyed staff said a lack of resources, time and money are the greatest challenges to upgrading AI use, according to a recent survey by UPCEA and EducationDynamics. 

Skeptical faculty are beginning to change their tune on the implications of artificial intelligence in the classroom, so much so that some believe generative AI tools rival the instruction of a professor. Likewise, nearly three-quarters (72%) of staff involved in the student recruitment and enrollment process agreed that using AI will spur growth and development, according to a recent survey by UPCEA and EducationDynamics.

However, institutions continue to face roadblocks in implementing AI due to resource constraints. Just 7% of surveyed staff said their institutions had a plan to upskill and support staff in adopting AI-driven technology, and nearly one-third (32%) said a lack of resources, time and money are the greatest challenges to taking the next step.

Institutions worried about falling behind in adopting AI but unsure how to move forward due to a lack of resources can adopt the following principles to avoid breaking the bank.

Focus on AI literacy programs—for students and faculty

Postsecondary AI credentials this year are on track to double that of 2023; 14 have already been announced through May 2024 compared to the 18 announced through all of 2023, Zach Paz, chief operating officer at Gray DI, a higher education intelligence service, said in an email.

While high-powered Ivy Leagues like the University of Pennsylvania can offer undergraduate degrees in AI focusing on computing algorithms and advanced robotics, other institutions can create undergraduate certificate and associate degree programs focusing on the basics.

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For example, the Ringling College of Art and Design announced last month its Artificial Intelligence Undergraduate Certificate to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate AI’s complex impact on creative industries. Similarly, Central Piedmont Community College recently launched its Artificial Intelligence Associate’s Degree Program to equip students with foundational knowledge on chatbots and generative AI, chatbot programming, artificial intelligence programming and AI applications in various industries.

However, building AI programs for students requires faculty to also be up to speed on the technology, Paz said. “Due to AI’s fast-changing nature, developing a cost-effective faculty training program is important.”

Institutions can create faculty development workshops to integrate AI concepts into existing courses or create new modules. Open-source curriculum materials, such as those offered by RIZE, can be an easy way to get started, Paz said. “Encouraging collaboration among faculty members will enable them to build upon each other’s expertise and foster a more robust program.”

OpenAI’s ChatpGPT Edu can also help institutions build scalable learning models.

Distinguishing oneself from online competition

In the first quarter of 2024, Coursera saw an increase of nearly 70,000 new students enrolled across eight AI courses, according to Gray DI. To generate similar interest, institutions should develop their programs with a sense of destination. For example, programs should leverage a specific industry focus, cater to the needs of the region’s workforce and demonstrate a commitment to graduate employability, said Paz.

“Providing interactive learning experiences through projects, labs or hackathons fosters deeper student engagement compared to passive online learning,” he said. “A blended learning approach combining online modules with in-person workshops and discussions provides students with the flexibility of online learning and the richness of face-to-face interaction.”

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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