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Artificial Intelligence (AI)

NEW: A vision for education and skills at Newcastle University: Education for Life 2030+

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that can perform tasks that usually require human intelligence, such as writing text, generating images, producing music, recognising speech, translating language, and making informed decisions. AI is based on the idea of creating machines that can "think" and "learn" like humans do, using algorithms to process and make sense of large amounts of data. AI is an area of active research and development, and has the potential to revolutionise the way we teach, learn, assess and access education.

AI in education

Students and colleagues are already making use of "generative" AI tools such as ChatGPTGoogle Bard and DALLE-2 to write text and create images, and AI-powered digital assistants are being used to simplify a wide variety of everyday academic tasks. It is our role as educators to explore and investigate the opportunities these AI tools provide to our students’ educational experience, as well as to consider any potential negative impacts.

AI really is going to revolutionise how we write and access information... If we understand more about the technology, and more about its limitations as well as capabilities, we’ll be in a good position to make the most of it.

Michael Webb, JISC’s Director of Technology and Analytics

Principles for the use of AI

New and rapidly evolving AI tools will undoubtably influence and change how our students approach their studies and research projects. To stay relevant, we need to change with them, and reconsider the way we deliver teaching and assessment at Newcastle University. More importantly, we need to recognise the significant benefits of these tools – and how we can all use them to best effect – rather than seeking to restrict their use.

Newcastle University's position is therefore not to prohibit the use of AI tools, but rather to offer colleagues and students support and guidance on how to use these tools responsibly, critically and ethically. Here we present our 5 Principles for the use of AI, which align with Russell Group principles and reflect a greater emphasis on our long-term approach to living with evolving AI tools.

What do you need to do?

Newcastle University colleagues are encouraged to consider and implement the five Principles for the use of AI, as listed above. To help you do this, and to raise awareness of AI tools more widely, LTDS are running a range of online webinars on the effective use of AI in teaching and assessment. To complement staff guidance available via this page, colleagues in the Library have also developed a range of AI information literacy resources, detailing how to critically evaluate, acknowledge and reference AI-generated content.

We are committed to the critical, ethical and responsible use of generative AI tools and to preparing our students and colleagues to work effectively in an increasingly AI-enabled world.

David Kennedy, Dean of Digital Education, Newcastle University

Potential uses of AI in education

AI technologies can be used to improve education and the student experience in a number of innovative and positive ways. For example, AI tools can:

  • assist educators in creating high-quality, engaging educational content. They can be used to generate lesson plans, create practice problems or quizzes, or assist with research by generating summaries or analysing data.
  • support student learning and language by translating text, answering frequently asked questions, summarising lecture notes, or simplifying complex concepts in a personalised and timely way.
  • enhance critical appraisal of information (e.g. by tasking students to evaluate accuracy, validity and potential bias in AI generated responses, having done their own independent research on the topic and/or through discussion with peers).
  • assist students to get past "blank page anxiety" and writer's block, by providing a basic structure to work from. The learning process can then be assessed by grading improvements over time based on feedback, reflections on the evolution of drafts, the connection of ideas throughout the text, evaluation of sources, and how students created complex overall arguments.
  • generate images and rapidly prototype designs, allowing students to explore and critique different ideas quickly, easily and collaboratively.
  • generate spoken audio and music from text prompts, making it easy to create audio podcasts or video voice-overs without the need for expensive recording devices or complex editing software.
  • speed up computer code development, or allow students to test and debug code they have written themselves.