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July 10, 2023

Confronting Artificial Intelligence Disruption: 6 Recommendations for Higher Education Leaders

Well that didn’t take long. For those in higher education, the digital disruption that happened during COVID was truly transformational – rewiring centuries old institutions on how they view and understand the role of technology. As COVID begins to fade while its impacts continue to reverberate, artificial intelligence looms as an even more profound disruption than we experienced during the pandemic. And while it is difficult to predict just how profound the impact of AI will be, what is clear is that higher education institutions need to make “change” an organizational strength in order to continue delivering high quality training and education while managing the roles that AI will play within same.

The AI tool, ChatGPT, which has caught the public’s attention, has dramatically increased the awareness about AI’s impact on the future role, value and purpose of higher education institutions. Regardless of your personal level of concern for this new technical advancement and the future innovations that will quickly follow, the unavoidable reality is that artificial intelligence is going to have a major and ongoing transformational impact across every area of the higher education industry.

AI is expected to advance at a rapid pace and will quickly appear on campuses as new features throughout every major software system like learning management, relationship management, the student information system and overall administrative support systems. To stay current, institutions will need to quickly adapt to enable these new AI capabilities. Successful institutions will know how to change faster without sacrificing the broader mission of student success.

To address the current and future reality of AI, higher education institutions need to approach change management with a sense of urgency across the entire enterprise in order to be better equipped to evolve and more quickly change out-of-date, inefficient processes. Burying your head in the sand is not an option. Higher education leaders need to embrace and address AI as a tool to enhance teaching and learning, improve administrative efficiency, make data-driven decisions, support student success, foster innovation, and address ethical considerations. By actively embracing AI, leaders can position their institutions at the forefront of educational advancements and prepare students for the evolving demands of the digital age.

The following six recommendations will help higher education institutions manage the AI disruption through proactive change management:

  1. 1) Adoption of AI Technologies: AI has the potential to transform various aspects of higher education, including teaching and learning, administrative processes, student support services, and research. Change management helps institutions navigate the adoption and integration of AI technologies effectively. It ensures that faculty, staff, and students understand the benefits, purpose, and implications of AI implementation, and provides the necessary support and training for successful adoption.

  2. 2) Faculty and Staff Engagement: AI technologies often introduce changes in workflows and job responsibilities, leading to concerns about job security and skill requirements. Change management helps address these concerns by involving faculty and staff in the decision-making process, providing opportunities for training and upskilling, and communicating the value and potential of AI in enhancing their roles. Engaging faculty and staff in the change management process fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the successful implementation of AI initiatives.
  3. 3) Student Experience and Support: AI can improve the student experience by providing personalized learning pathways, intelligent tutoring, automated administrative processes, and virtual assistance. Change management ensures that students are informed about AI-driven changes, have access to necessary support resources, and are engaged in shaping AI-enabled learning environments. It helps students understand how AI technologies can enhance their learning outcomes and equips them with the skills needed to navigate and benefit from AI-driven educational experiences.

  4. 4) Ethical and Privacy Considerations: AI technologies in higher education raise ethical and privacy concerns, such as data security, algorithmic bias, and transparency. Change management facilitates discussions around these issues, ensures that ethical considerations are integrated into AI implementations, and develops policies and guidelines to address potential risks and challenges. It helps institutions proactively address ethical concerns and build trust among stakeholders regarding the responsible and ethical use of AI.

  5. 5) Institutional Culture and Readiness: The adoption of AI requires a supportive institutional culture and readiness for change. Change management helps institutions assess their readiness, identify potential barriers to adoption, and develop strategies to foster a culture that embraces innovation and AI-driven advancements. It involves creating a shared vision for AI integration, promoting collaboration across departments, and establishing mechanisms for continuous learning and improvement.

  6. 6) Continuous Learning and Adaptation: AI technologies are rapidly evolving, and new applications and capabilities will continue to emerge. Change management in higher education ensures that institutions have a continuous learning mindset and are prepared to adapt to new advancements. It establishes mechanisms for ongoing evaluation, feedback collection, and adjustment of AI initiatives based on user experiences, emerging research, and changing needs.

In summary, change management is a “must have” in higher education with the advancement of AI to ensure successful adoption, address concerns and ethical considerations, engage stakeholders, and create a supportive culture that embraces AI as a means to enhance teaching, learning, and administrative processes. Effective enterprise-wide change management enables institutions to harness the potential of AI technologies while considering the interests and well-being of all stakeholders involved – especially for current and future students.

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