A new generation of research assistants has arrived at universities in the US, UK, and elsewhere. They are at work in classrooms and administrative offices, helping to prepare instruction and guidance for new and returning students.

This year’s corps of research assistants perform their tasks for professors and deans around the clock, but you wouldn’t notice them on campus. They are found only online, the disembodied denizens of generative AI tools like ChatGPT.

Professor Mairéad Pratschke is chair in digital education of the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures at the University of Manchester, the largest single-site university in the UK. In her lectures and conference appearances, Prof. Pratschke urges academic colleagues to accept the reality that AI has come to school to stay.

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“This is a tricky and debatable topic. Right up to today, some people are saying they want to fight it and that we should be fighting it. But my position on it is that it is everywhere – AI is everywhere – and that we do have to recognize that,” she explains.

“The very first thing that we need to do is work on AI literacy across the board,” Prof. Pratschke tells me. “Recognize it at the campus level by creating those policies that people are talking about now, issuing guidance to students and to staff. It’s critical that they know how to use it, when to use it, if they can use it, in what assignments they can use it, and what the guidelines state specifically.”


Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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