Navigating the new world of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, can be difficult for the average user. Figuring out how to best use those tools in a university setting poses even more questions.
A new Slack workspace offers UC Riverside instructors and staff members a forum to come to together to answer those questions.
Rich Yueh, an assistant professor of teaching in information systems at the School of Business, created the discussion workspace after hearing many of his colleagues raise questions about AI tools like ChatGPT.
“A lot of faculty were saying ‘We need a place to discuss with other faculty members how can we can we use AI in the classroom, where do we go for help,’” he said.
Launched this fall, the UCR AI Forum has a small group of participants — including representatives from Information Technology Solutions and the Exploration Center for Innovative Teaching and Engagement, or XCITE — but they hope more faculty and staff members will begin to use the platform.
Yueh said the forum aims to be a place where anyone on campus can learn about, discuss, and collaborate on all aspects of AI usage and research. Participants can discuss its best use, ask questions, or seek practical help on how to perform a specific task.
He’s personally found the forum helpful in a number of ways from postings by one user on the latest government news regarding AI to connecting with other partners on a project called Notebook LM, which allows users to create notes using AI for research and learning purposes.
Reactions to the use of AI range from early adopters who are actively using it to skeptics who don’t want anything to do with it, Yueh said. But he sees its use as inevitable in higher education and that it’s better to be prepared.
He noted that companies like Microsoft and Google in a few years will likely incorporate AI technology in products like Word or Google Docs.
“It’s coming one way or the other, so for a community like our campus it’s certainly something that’s going to become part of our daily lives,” Yueh said. “This helps people to navigate how to use it and prepare for it.”
Yueh began trying out AI tools last fall when they became publicly available and soon began incorporating them into his classes. He said he’s always looking for how new technology can be used in education and felt if he doesn’t allow his students to use the most advanced tools he’s doing them a disservice.
“One thing I say is AI will not take a person’s job, the person who knows how to use AI will take the job,” he said, responding to fears some voice that the technology will phase out certain professions.
The forum is open to any member of campus through their UCR Slack account. There are separate channels for faculty, staff, and students. Those interested can join at this link.
Sonal Agrawal, a second-year MBA student, is overseeing campus outreach, inviting departments, faculty members, and teaching assistants to join the workspace. As part of that outreach, Yueh or one of his research students offer a demonstration on how AI can be helpful in a user’s field. They also plan to organize workshops, seminars, and other outreach programs to education students and teaching assistants on the use of AI technology.
Part of their message will be how students can use it to enhance their learning and not for cheating, said Agrawal, who spent seven years working in the tech industry.
“We cannot stop students from using it, but we can explain an ethical way of doing it in an optimized way without destroying their critical thinking,” she said.
Cover illustration by Getty Images