The Role Of Generative AI In Higher Education


Tal Frankfurt is the Founder and CEO of Cloud for Good, a Salesforce partner that creates transformational value with technology.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming all industries, including the nonprofit and educational sectors. In particular, generative AI (GenAI), which includes technologies like generative pre-trained transformers (GPTs), represents a shift in how to approach and execute tasks, offering new opportunities for innovation and efficiency.

Before diving into AI, higher education institutions must clearly define what they aim to achieve. Babson College explained on a recent podcast that they took a thoughtful approach to set up a GenAI pilot for students and faculty, which has grown into a comprehensive generative AI strategy for the college. (Disclosure: Babson College is a Cloud for Good client.) As their Chief Information Officer Patty Patria said, “We are all in on AI.”

Other higher education institutions can learn from Babson’s collaborative approach. While not every college is built around the entrepreneurial spirit like Babson, it’s important to create a strategy that prioritizes the spirit of learning, risk mitigation, and value creation mindset to provide faculty, staff, and students with the tools and information they need to succeed in the rapidly changing AI landscape. By leveraging a closed AI system, for example, that uses the latest versions of ChatGPT and Dall-E, colleges can successfully integrate AI into their curriculum, administrative operations and, most importantly, their student experience.

Likewise, it’s crucial to focus on responsible AI and offering equitable access, which means providing the tools and education the community needs to leverage GenAI.

Having well-defined objectives will guide your AI evaluation process, whether improving operational efficiency, enhancing educational outcomes or better serving the community. Once you have defined your objectives, there are many exciting use cases for GenAI in the nonprofit and education space.

• Some companies are adding AI to existing platforms. Salesforce, for example, announced AI-powered student success tools for their Education Cloud. (Disclosure: Salesforce is a Cloud for Good partner.) This solution now uses AI to analyze program and course information to identify market-relevant skills students will gain and can generate a list that can be added to coursework descriptions. Additionally, this solution can identify available mentors with the right experience to help their mentees, for example, take the next step in their careers.

• Another area where innovation with AI is increasing is advancement. Tools like WealthEngine or Donor Search can enhance donor prospecting by more effectively identifying potential donors. Furthermore, GenAI solutions—such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Anthrophic’s Claude or Salesforce’s Einstein Co-Pilot—can assist in writing personalized donor emails and acknowledgments or even answer questions such as “Will I hit my fundraising goals?” or “What do I need to do to exceed my fundraising goals?”

• Technology partnerships are forming between institutions and the for-profit sector. For example, Arizona State University (ASU) announced its collaboration with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. Following that partnership, ASU received over 175 proposals from students and faculty for implementing the technology and accepted 105 proposals in three project areas: advancing innovations in teaching and learning, enhancing AI research with social impact, and exploring scaling the public enterprise.

It is important to note that using GenAI public models can raise ethical concerns around bias, transparency and privacy. ChatGPT Enterprise accounts differ from individual ChatGPT licenses in terms of usage scope and data handling. The Enterprise version, which ASU is using, does not expose the data publicly and is not used to train OpenAI models. That said, ChatGPT Enterprise is currently not approved for FERPA-protected data.

It is crucial that before implementing AI models, you create clear policies about how it will be used and what data shouldn’t be inputted or used. Careful planning, ethical considerations and continuous evaluation are key to successfully integrating AI into your nonprofit or educational institution. Embrace these principles to make informed decisions and drive positive change with AI.

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