Artificial Intelligence and higher education in SA: What universities must consider now

ChatGPT functions like a virtual assistant. Picture: Supplied

ChatGPT functions like a virtual assistant. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 15, 2023


In terms of academic integrity and implementing appropriate guidelines and policies, higher education should address the opportunities and challenges surrounding ChatGPT and artificial intelligence (AI). In a nutshell, ChatGPT functions like a virtual assistant and can answer your questions as if it were a real person.

Dr Gillian Mooney, Dean of Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education (IIE), explains some of the advantages presented by the technology which universities can leverage.

The recent release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT has taken the world by storm, raising questions about its impact and implications across various industries. One sector that urgently needs to consider questions around the opportunities and challenges surrounding ChatGPT in particular, but artificial intelligence in general, is higher education.

Dr Gillian Mooney, The Independent Institute of Education

“Technology has already had an impact on higher education. This impact has largely been in the form of quite different reactions to the release of the technology as we are still in the early days of release,” said Dr Mooney.

“On the one hand, there are camps that are thinking about how to leverage technology in their teaching and learning practices. On the other hand, there are discussions that assume students will cheat using this platform, and we need to work on ways to stop this.”

On the opportunity side, academics are taking the following into consideration at this stage:

  • how to provide students with a strategic advantage in the current academic framework, and future work and contexts with this technology;
  • how to ensure that students are not disadvantaged in any way, given that a subscription to ChatGPT, providing preferential use, is currently US $20 (about R360);
  • what the implications are of this technology for knowledge generation, given that the response is based on information to which the platform has access to; and
  • whether the above includes peer-reviewed journal articles, which are typically only available via subscription, and what the impact will be of the fact that in recent years, researchers have made their work more readily available.

“Ultimately, the response to these rapid advances in AI technology will require a two-pronged approach which includes elements of the carrot, as well as the stick,” concluded Dr Mooney.