Provost’s Taskforce on Artificial Intelligence and the Learning Environment

A Provost’s Taskforce on AI and the Learning Environment has been created to foster conversation across our campuses about generative AI like ChatGPT, DALL-E2, Google BARD, Microsoft Bing and similar applications. 

The Taskforce will provide recommendations back to our different university communities such as General Faculty Council, Faculty Councils, students and instructors on how best to deal with the opportunities and challenges of generative artificial intelligence in the learning environment. The U of A is also well-positioned to contribute to society’s broader conversations about the role of artificial intelligence in our learning environment and beyond.

Guidance for Instructors

Given the diversity of learning environments across our campuses, the Taskforce can give high-level guidance for instructors. There will be a need to further modify as makes sense within course and disciplinary contexts.

  • Be clear with students about expectations regarding the use of generative AI, particularly in course assignments. If students are using generative AI, consider how they should indicate it (for example, in the sources cited page, prefatory comments, or in-text citations). Please make sure that you summarize these conversations in a written format and include them in eClass in a place where students will find them for those who may have not been in class. This gives students a place to refer back to when completing assignments. Your department or faculty may have specific guidance for you. The Centre for Teaching and Learning have developed sample statements for inclusion in syllabi and assignments.

  • Identify creative uses for generative AI in your course (idea generation, code samples, creative application of course concepts, study assistance, language practice). Discuss limitations of tools like ChatGPT in the topics covered by your course, including the limitation of data used (prior to 2021), factually inaccurate information, biases and discrimination in the data used to generate text and in the output, and the use of culturally inappropriate language and sources. 
  • The Code of Student Behaviour states: “No Student shall represent another’s substantial editorial or compositional assistance on an assignment as the Student’s own work.” Submitting work created by generative AI and not indicating such would constitute cheating as defined above. The Code also states “No Student shall submit in any course or program of study any academic writing, essay, thesis, report, project, assignment, presentation or poster containing a statement of fact known by the Student to be false or a reference to a source the Student knows to contain fabricated claims (unless acknowledged by the Student), or a fabricated reference to a source.” The fabrication (or “hallucinations”) of generative AI may fall into this category of cheating.

  • Stress to students the value of building their own voice and writing skills and so on. Motivating students to share their ideas, perspectives, and voice may help to make generative AI  less appealing. Similarly, asking students to share their reflections (reflective writing) can help reinforce student investment in the learning process. If instructors are equipped to do so, they can show how generative AI can be used as a tool to aid in work as opposed to replacing student work.

  • Remind students that AI tools such as ChatGPT gather significant personal data from users to share with third parties. Therefore thoughtful engagement with these tools is recommended.

Resources from the Centre of Teaching and Learning: Teaching in the Context of AI

The U of A’s Centre for Teaching and Learning has resources for instructors on AI in the learning environment.

Resources include:

Guidance on Detecting Text Composed by Generative AI

There are different services online that purport to detect text composed by generative AI with varying degrees of accuracy and false positive rates. There are many ethical considerations that must be taken into account when submitting the work of students to such services.There are also significant concerns about the accuracy of these tools especially given the rapid development of generative AI models. Generally, the U of A does not recommend the use of AI detection applications. Any exceptions that may make sense at a Department or Faculty level will need to go through the University of Alberta Privacy and Security Review process prior to use.

Members of the Provost’s Taskforce on ArtificiaI Intelligence and the Learning Environment

The Taskforce is chaired by the Vice Provost (Learning Initiatives) and includes subject matter experts, key administrative portfolios and members of student groups:

Karsten Mündel, Vice-Provost, Learning Initiatives (Chair)
Cathy Adams, Professor, Department of Secondary Education, Faculty of Education
Bradley Ambury, Lead Educational Developer, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Provost & Vice-President (Academic)
Bishoi Aziz, Vice-President (Academic), Graduate Students’ Association
Jaime Chan, Executive Assistant to Vice Provosts Academic Programs & Learning Initiatives
Carrie Demmans Epp, Assistant Professor, Department of Computing Science, Faculty of Science
Debbie Feisst, Head, Faculty Engagement (Natural + Applied Sciences), Library and Museums
Jeffrey Franc, Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
Alona Fyshe, Assistant Professor, Computing Science, Faculty of Science
Gurleen Kaur, Vice-President (Academic), University of Alberta Students’ Union
Hollis Lai, Associate Professor, Department of Dentistry, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
Amanda Magnan, Senior Instructional Designer, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Provost & Vice-President (Academic) 
Marilene Oliver, Associate Professor, Department of Art & Design, Faculty of Arts
Jeff Rawlings, Director, Digital Learning Environment, Relationship Management, Information Services & Technology
Pedro Riberiro Lopes Pinto de Almedia, University of Alberta Students' Union
Geoffrey Rockwell, Director, Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (KIAS), Faculty of Arts & Associate Director, Signature Research Areas, Vice-President Research Innovation, 
Ali Shiri, Vice-Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research
Helen Vallianatos, Vice-Provost/ Dean of Students, Dean of Students Administration