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How to prepare learners for AI in the workplace

03 June 2024

We are seeing generative AI (genAI) embedded in daily tools more and more, which is raising awareness and increasing use by learners. Many learners today are already using genAI in some form or another, and we continue to see this use evolve.

Jisc’s latest student perceptions of generative AI report outlines an expectation for learning providers to embrace genAI and support learners in their journey through education to employment in an AI-enabled world. Learners are also looking for reassurance around the fair and accessible use of genAI in education to minimise bias and promote responsible use of this type of technology.

When conversations around genAI really took off in 2022 with the launch of ChatGPT, the use of genAI tools in education was understandably met with some trepidation by many senior leaders and practitioners, with concerns centred mainly around opportunities for misuse and the impact on academic integrity and assessment.

Some of the initial unease around genAI was due to a lack of understanding of the capabilities of this type of technology causing fear of the unknown. As a way to combat this, Jisc introduced the generative AI primer, providing support and regular updates to leaders and practitioners when navigating the challenges and opportunities of genAI at their institution.

We’ve also produced a guide to essential resources to help cut through the noise and to support our members as they develop ethical genAI strategy, and we’ll soon be launching our AI maturity model, a tool to frame conversations around an institutions journey on adopting genAI.

As the UK’s digital, data and technology agency for tertiary education, Jisc supports our members in their accelerated adoption of genAI in a responsible way through the use of pilots, advice and guidance, events and dedicated AI communities of practice.

In our latest student perceptions of generative AI report, we spoke to over 200 students and learners in universities and colleges across the UK through a series of discussion panels.

The message is clear.

Learners are increasingly demanding genAI is embedded across their education to help them develop skills for an AI-enabled future, and they expect competent usage by staff. But concerns around accessibility, ethics and the equitable provision of genAI tools have also increased.

Earlier this year, Jisc, in partnership with the Association of Colleges (AoC) technology reference group, developed six principles for the use of AI in further education (FE), to help colleges navigate challenges and maximise the opportunities of AI.

The principles, centred around fair and responsible use of AI, provide a framework to support learners in developing the AI skills they need to thrive, whilst promoting equality of opportunity for all.

One of the most important questions senior education leaders can ask today is: what steps can we take to ensure learners are prepared for the genAI-enabled world they will be working in?

AI literacy is already high on the priority list for many employers, alongside essential human skills such as critical thinking, empathy, communication, responsible decision making and adaptability – the skills that set us apart from the machines.

To help senior leaders support learners in developing crucial employability skills, including genAI literacy, Jisc has outlined a series of steps that can be taken by all institutions as they navigate their genAI journey.

The first is to ensure the publication of relevant, unambiguous policies and guidance that best fit the individual institution and support the responsible and ethical use of genAI for all staff and learners. Our six principles for the use of AI in FE can support colleges on this first step of the journey.

The next step is to make sure essential human skills and behaviours are fully embedded into the curriculum, as these are what make candidates stand out from the crowd.

Finally, developing institution-wide genAI strategy that emphasises the importance of equipping learners with the necessary genAI skills to help them succeed in their chosen profession is essential.

GenAI has the potential to improve the education experience for all, and as it continues to grow and evolve, so do the expectations of both learners and staff alike who want to get the most from this type of technology in a fair and responsible way.

By involving staff and learners in the operational process, diverse needs and perspectives can be addressed, fostering an environment of collaborative learning and adaptation.

Sue Attewell is the head of AI and co-design at Jisc.

Join us on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 June for the AoC Artificial Intelligence in Further Education Conference 2024, sponsored by Jisc. Book your place here.