Abu Dhabi University defines artificial intelligence (AI) as universal skill 

As AI drives us toward creativity, ADU fosters future-ready workforce 
Abu Dhabi University defines artificial intelligence (AI) as universal skill 
Prof Ghassan Aouad, Abu Dhabi University chancellor

In an insightful interview with Economy Middle East, Professor Ghassan Aouad, the chancellor of Abu Dhabi University, sheds light on the profound impact of AI on the educational landscape. Delving into the remarkable transformations that higher education has undergone since the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), he emphasizes the exciting new experiences that students now encounter in their pursuit of knowledge. As priorities in education increasingly shift toward adaptability, resourcefulness and creativity, Aouad reveals the empowering effects of AI on both teachers and students, fostering a dynamic and innovative learning environment.  

How do you see AI transforming the future of education?

AI has been present for almost 70 years, only gaining significant momentum recently. The emergence of generative AI, like ChatGPT, is revolutionizing education. For teachers, AI empowers them to scale fully personalized educational experiences. Meanwhile, AI-assisted students are swift learners with instant access to information. Educational institutions are leveraging predictive analytics to proactively address process shortcomings. Moreover, AI boosts operational efficiency, reduces costs, and improves educational services. 

AI is propelling us toward innovation and creativity. As AI takes on tasks of diminishing value, institutions must prioritize nurturing skills that offer unique value beyond AI. AI revolutionizes assessments, putting emphasis on complex problem-solving and advanced skills while reducing reliance on knowledge recall or simple skill demonstration. Furthermore, AI offers unmatched performance feedback, enhances research through improved search and communication, and broadens access to quality education by overcoming language, cost and disability barriers.  

What are some specific ways ADU is using AI? How do you equip students for future jobs that require AI skills?

ADU has always seen the potential of AI as a transformative force. Since 2014, we have been committed to smart learning, an initiative that continues to thrive through our Center of Excellence. We also established Abu Dhabi University’s Innovation (ADUi) center, serving as a platform for events, lectures, and conferences. This versatile space hosts workshops, providing hands-on learning opportunities for all.  

ADU incorporates AI into analysis models to reveal trends, gain insights and aid in decision-making. Additionally, it employs predictive models to enhance and review programs. 

Read: MEA, Europe edTech market size to reach $120 bn by 2027

AI plays a central role in revolutionizing, digitizing and automating services for students and faculty. ADU embraces AI in various forms, including text, audio and video generation. We carefully regulate and develop in-house tools and training programs to promote responsible adoption. 

At ADU, our efforts are centered around redefining AI as a universal skill. We offer the course, “Introductory Artificial Intelligence,” for Engineering students. Taught by expert professors, this course empowers students to lead AI transformations, creating value for future employers. Furthermore, they learn to tackle real-world challenges using AI techniques and data from their respective domains. 

Abu Dhabi University AI
Abu Dhabi University

What ethical factors are considered when employing AI in education?

There are several ethical considerations, with one of the most pressing being plagiarism. Ensuring that we assess and report on students’ skill levels, rather than that of AI, is crucial for employers. While tools to detect AI-generated text exist, their false positive rates can be high, posing challenges in preserving academic integrity. Another concern relates to the copyright of the work used as data to train generative AI. These are issues under discussion, and academics must play a role in guiding students through them. 

Moreover, as the world moves toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals, we must also consider the carbon footprint of training AI models. Educating students about green AI, the importance of sustainable models, and how they can help reduce our environmental impact, become ethical obligations. Teaching students about explainable AI is crucial, as it allows them to better interpret information. Furthermore, as students develop their own AI models, they must be educated on avoiding bias, safeguarding data privacy, and ethically analyzing AI’s performance. 

How has the use of AI influenced the role of instructors? Has it led to any significant changes in teaching methods or responsibilities?

In the past, producing individualized experiences was both time and resource consuming. While professors understood the importance of personalized learning and how it represented the future of education, they needed more means to do it at scale. Now, professors can tailor the experience to each student. Generative AI integrates image, audio, and video generation, producing multimedia and feedback-rich lesson plans on any topic. 

Further, AI aids in monitoring student participation, emotions, and performance, ultimately enabling deep insights to achieve learning outcomes. Teaching AI-assisted students with readily available knowledge, high expectations, and short attention spans has become a challenge. The professor’s role has shifted towards facilitating learning, and AI accelerates this transformative change. At ADU, we value human connection, class interaction, and discussions. AI won’t replace teachers since quality content remains close at hand.  

In your opinion, what are the key advantages and potential challenges of AI in education?

 The advantages of AI lie in its ability to reduce the cost of producing high-quality and adaptive learning materials, analyze historical student performance data for insights, and reduce the cost and resource requirements for eliminating learning barriers. However, a major challenge is ensuring reliable assessments of student performances.  

Moreover, there is concern that excessive reliance on AI may lead to the underdevelopment of critical skills. For instance, writing fosters critical thinking, logical reasoning, and expression, all of which are essential for creativity and innovation. If students overly rely on AI, they may face difficulties in forming mental connections necessary to create or express novel ideas. 

To address these concerns, ADU has established guidelines for AI use among faculty and students. This approach allows us to harness the benefits of AI while mitigating potential risks. Additionally, several faculty members actively work on analyzing these risks and proposing innovative technological solutions through research and development. ADU is committed to taking the lead in faculty AI training and development, ensuring their preparedness for the future of education.  

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