Generative AI

Steering through the storm: insights and sharing best practices

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A ship in harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. J.A. Shedd

The advent of Generative AI (GenAI) has ushered in both opportunities and challenges within higher education, pushing our metaphorical ship out of the comfort of its harbour and into the perfect storm. The initial response to these challenges within the Dutch higher education system was broadly decentralised, a trend discussed extensively at the 2024 National Collaboration of Academic Science Centres (ICAB) conference at Wageningen University. This decentralised approach left department heads, programme coordinators, teachers, and students navigating these waters largely on their own, resulting in duplicated efforts and a pervasive sense of uncertainty about strategic actions and responsibilities. 

Two recent articles published on DUB, written by Karin van Es and Yvette Roman, have highlighted the need for more centralised and less ambiguous policies. They also both emphasise that a "one size fits all" approach does not suffice when it comes to integrating GenAI into education and that further research and discussions are necessary to help us navigate these uncharted waters.   

Sharing best practices: an educational life raft
At the heart of many discussions, such as those at the 2024 ICAB conference and Utrecht University’s Education Festival, has been the emphasis on sharing best practices in the application of GenAI. These forums have provided platforms for students and faculty to exchange insights and experiences, highlighting successful strategies and common challenges. Complementing these discussions are several interdisciplinary initiatives at Utrecht University, notably, the AI in Education USO led by Gerko Vink. This interdisciplinary initiative includes four targeted project plans – focusing on teaching and instruction, students and learning, grading and assessment, and AI literacy – and will culminate in an educational cookbook, effectively acting as a life raft to help both students and faculty navigate these stormy waters.

A lighthouse
In parallel with broader university efforts, the Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS) has taken significant strides by developing comprehensive guidelines and tutorials (Solis ID required, Ed.) for both students and faculty. Recognising that one size does not fit all, these resources are tailored to meet diverse educational needs within the GSLS while upholding ethical principles and promoting a responsible human-centred approach. Embracing the spirit of collaboration and open sharing, the GSLS has made these guidelines and tutorials readily accessible to the entire university and UMCU community through the ULearning platform. Everyone with a Solis ID and registration on ULearning can access them and the GSLS encourages other faculties to utilise them as a template, potentially fostering a more unified approach to GenAI. Designed to act as a lighthouse for those lost in the stormy sea of GenAI integration, these resources will hopefully help illuminate a path towards safe and effective educational practices.

The harbour
As we continue to chart the course through the challenging waters of GenAI, it becomes clear that shared knowledge and unified strategies are our best navigational tools. The proactive efforts by the GSLS, the AI in Education USO, and other university-wide initiatives, exemplify our commitment to navigating these challenges collaboratively. By embracing open sharing and adopting clear and transparent guidelines, we can ensure that our entire academic community is equipped to steer our metaphorical ship back into the harbour of informed and responsible GenAI practice.