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As the dramatic impact of AI is revealed, the importance of imparting soft skills will grow

With the rise of ChatGPT and other AI-powered tools, it’s easy for the higher education sector to get caught up in the conversation about what our classrooms will look like in the years to come.

While it is natural to express concerns about the effects that artificial intelligence (AI) could have on higher education, I believe that to maintain the relevance of our educational processes and learning outcomes, we must embrace AI and its multifaceted impacts.

As a former high-tech industry executive with a voice recognition product developer for 15 years, and now president of the Afeka College of Engineering for 10 years, I have witnessed the evolution of the AI in various sectors. While it is instinctive to describe the rise of AI as “rapid,” the reality is that AI technologies have been around for decades but were mostly transparent to the general public.

In their early days, AI technologies were integrated into solutions for specific tasks, such as playing chess, or used in disciplines such as speech recognition and computer vision. Recent advances in AI-based applications, such as ChatGPT, have simply made AI widely visible and more accessible.

Currently, results generated by publicly available AI applications often contain errors or misinformation. However, systems trained on huge amounts of data tend to adjust quickly, leading to increased reliability. On the other hand, if the results of current AI systems are widely distributed, and therefore fed back into AI learning databases, this could impact the overall performance of the systems in a way which has not yet been noted, which could make the task even more difficult. to differentiate between reliable and unreliable outputs.

What exactly does this mean for higher education? When it comes to educational processes, in recent years the emphasis has started to shift from the simple transmission of knowledge – which is readily available and constantly evolving – to the transmission of skills which integrate both knowledge and skills personal, such as self-learning, critical thinking, creative thinking. , multidisciplinary teamwork and effective communication. These are all important skills for functioning in modern society and the job market, but they are also crucial for improving learning.

ChatGPT and similar platforms only make these skills even more vital. Until recently, learners had to search for information from various sources and integrate all the knowledge they had gathered into a single source. However, current AI solutions can quickly accomplish this task for them, making the ability to critically analyze the results received even more crucial. More than ever, today’s students must evaluate whether the information they are exposed to is well-established, consistent, coherent, logical, and validated, all without knowing precisely what sources that data is based on. Then they must add their own personal contribution and analysis. In this way, AI tools can raise the level of teaching on our campuses by integrating them into lectures or homework assignments.

For example, at Afeka we are currently exploring ways to change our approach to teaching computer programming. Since ChatGPT can produce basic software scripts, instead of giving students exercises to produce those scripts, they can be asked to prompt ChatGPT to produce the desired scripts and then take those scripts to the next level. As the capabilities of ChatGPT and others improve and expand, we will need to adapt our teaching and learning methods accordingly. I envision a day when realistic online avatars function as the ultimate teacher, facilitator, or mentor in a system that personalizes a teaching process tailored to each learner’s pace and learning level.

A recently published study by UNESCO found that only 10% of 450 schools and universities surveyed around the world have developed institutional policies or formal guidance regarding the use of generative AI, indicating their resistance or, at at the very least, their uncertainty about responding to the rapid increase. new technologies. Yet at the same time, a study by Intelligent.com found that around 30% of students used ChatGPT for schoolwork in the past school year, already highlighting the influence of AI in the classroom .

AI will change the world as we know it and will have a considerable, but not entirely predictable, impact on teaching and learning processes. Although the current uncertainty can be destabilizing, resisting this inevitability is futile. Instead of fearing its consequences, we should view AI as a technology that enhances the power of the human brain, in the same way that the invention of the hammer enhanced the power of the human hand.

I am convinced that the world will always need scientists and engineers, whose primary role is to develop new solutions to new and existing problems – which requires the human strengths of creativity and teamwork, as well as an innate understanding and empathy for those affected by these issues. solutions: other humans.

This is precisely why, in recent years, we have transformed the educational process at Afeka to focus on the development of personal skills such as multidisciplinary teamwork, self-learning, effective communication, thinking criticism and creativity of our students. These skills are essential to success in today’s world of rapid technological progress and ensuring that they are an asset of our educational processes, just like knowledge, has become our mission.

It is essential to remember that people remain the basis of all technological innovation. Whatever the consequences of technological advances at any given time (and there will surely be many more in the future), it is up to higher education institutions to adapt their teaching and learning processes so as to instill in students the personal skills that guarantee their success. lasting success during their academic studies, throughout their careers and as productive members of modern society.


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