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Artificial Intelligence and Your Learning

Guidance to help you responsibly engage with Artificial Intelligence for your educational experience.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that can perform tasks that usually require human intelligence, such as writing text, generating images, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation. AI is based on the idea of creating machines that can "think" and "learn" like humans do, using algorithms that can process large amounts of data and draw conclusions from it. 

There is great potential for using generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, Moonbeam, MidJourney or DALL-E as digital assistants both for your education and in your future workplace. As the number of embedded AI technologies increases within the software packages we commonly use, you're going to need to develop your awareness, digital skills and critical thinking to ensure that you approach these tools effectively and ethically, and without negatively impacting on the development of your own skills and knowledge. Microsoft is shortly introducing Copilot within their products, with more partnerships and developments following rapidly, meaning that you are likely to encounter AI technologies in a wide range of settings, with them becoming a recognised part of writing as a process.

AI and your education

At Newcastle University we are committed to supporting you to develop good academic practice and your critical awareness of generative AI. These pages aim to support you in:

  • how to use generative AI tools responsibly and ethically
  • maintaining good academic practice and integrity by appropriately acknowledging your use of AI tools in the development of your work
  • understanding when use of generative AI is inappropriate and could be considered academic misconduct

AI text-generation tools

There has been a lot of media coverage of AI text generating tools lately, in particular ChatGPT. Understanding how generative AI works will help you understand the possibilities and limitations of using them to support your learning.

When viewing the output of generative AI it is easy to think it has a level of understanding of the subject being written about or that it is paraphrasing content copied from the web, but that isn't the case. Technology such as ChatGPT and Google Bard work by building a vast dataset of reference text, sourced from openly available online articles, books and webpages. When responding to a prompt from you, they simply select the statistical "next best word" based on the words and sentences that have gone before – influenced by information you supplied at the start of the chat. In many ways, they work a little like a mobile phone’s predictive text features. 

AI and preparing for assessment

As University students you need to be aware of the potential uses of AI, how it can enhance your learning, while being cautious about becoming over reliant on AI to the detriment of your own academic development. It is important to be familiar with the limitations of the tools and the potential to slip into poor academic practice

Among other uses, AI technology offers a new and effective way of searching for information, but as the tools are unable to draw on academic sources such as journal articles and books that are not openly available online, much of the scholarly information you need will not be part of the dataset. You will also find that provided references are fabricated and if you read outputs critically, will begin to identify factual errors. 

The Student Charter sets out the rights and responsibilities of all our students, regardless of location, level, mode or programme of study. The Charter describes your responsibility to maintain high standards of academic integrity, honesty and good academic practice throughout your studies and in your work. This includes the expectation that anything you submit for assessment will be wholly your own work, or that of your group where it is collaborative work. Using generative AI to create your work for you without acknowledging it's role would be unacceptable. 

In thinking about how you will use AI tools there is an important distinction to make between learning and assessment. What may be a valuable application of AI for your own learning, knowledge or academic development may be poor academic practice or misconduct in assessment. It's vital that when approaching any assignment you ensure that the work is your own or that you have followed any guidelines or expectations about the use of AI set by your module leader

AI and academic integrity at Newcastle University

When using AI tools to support your learning and preparing for assessment you will need to acknowledge in an open and transparent way how and why you have used AI for the development of your work. If there is a suspicion that work you have submitted for assessment is not your own, including text, images or code, partially or wholly generated by AI, your work will be considered within the Academic Misconduct Procedure and the Student Progress Service reserves the right to run work through an AI checker as part of an investigation into academic misconduct.

To gain an understanding of the University position on the use of generative AI in the creation of your work, watch the short video below where Dr. David Kennedy, Professor Ruth Valentine and Mack Marshall (NUSU Education Officer, 2022-23) explain the opportunities and issues to consider.  

Your development as a learner

As with any tool it is strongly advisable not to become over reliant on AI so that you can develop your writing, critical thinking, and evaluation skills holistically. These are all key academic skills and graduate competencies that you will need as you progress through your university studies and into the workplace.

Like any other resource you would read or use in your work, you should get into the habit of critically reflecting on AI outputs, asking yourself questions like why? how? and so what? You should judge the generated content as you would any other source of information to consider if it is valid and believable. As we see more and more content on the Internet that has been generated using AI, the need to evaluate all sources of information fully is going to become even more vital.  

Images created using OpenAI (2023) DALLE-2, 12 April. Available at: (Accessed: 12 April 2023)