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Generative AI and its use in Higher Education, 3rd July 2023

2023 is the year of generative AI, from chatbots such as chatGPT to image generators such as DALL-E and Midjourney, not to mention the soon to be launched Microsoft Co-Pilot which will bring enhance AI functionality to almost all of the Microsoft suite. To help staff better understand generative AI, what it can do and what it can’t do, its strengths and shortcomings and how we can embed its use in teaching, learning and assessment alongside our workshop programme  DCAD are running a one-day online symposium on 3rd July 2023 with a range of experts from across the sector speaking and discussing the likely current and future impact of AI on our practice as teachers and researchers. Speakers include:

Large Language Models: ChatGPT, Bard, 悟道

Prof. Philippe De Wilde, University of Kent

This talk explains some technical aspects of Large Language Models such as ChatGPT to a non-technical audience. This elementary technical knowledge allows you to form an opinion on whether ChatGPT ‘understands’ anything, whether it plagiarises, and how reliable it is. I will also show that AI is cyclical, and that boom is sometimes followed by bust. We will look at the large players in the US and in China. Finally we will consider the notion of originality in a post-ChatGPT world and how we will need to revise our standards for what is original in research as well as in student work. Just as calculators have changed the way we calculate, Large Language Models will change the way we write. Slides are available at this link.

Philippe De Wilde is Professor of Artificial Intelligence in the Division of Natural Sciences at the University of Kent. He promotes the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in Biosciences, Medical Science, and Physics. He works in the context of digital humanism on transparent and humane AI.

Between 2014 and 2020 Prof. De Wilde was Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research & Innovation at the University of Kent. Between 2007 and 2014 he was Head of the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, with campuses in Edinburgh, Dubai, and Malaysia. He obtained the PhD degree in quantum mechanics and the MSc degree in computer science in 1985 from Ghent University, Belgium. He was Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Imperial College London, between 1989 and 2005. Before 1989 he worked in Belgium at KU Leuven in applied mathematics and IMEC, also in Leuven, on microelectronics. Prof. De Wilde is one of many dual EU/UK nationals living and working in the UK.

Navigating the opportunities and challenges of AI in education

Michael Webb, Director of technology and analytics, JISC

Jisc’s national centre for artificial intelligence in tertiary education aims to help institutions adopt AI in a responsible and ethical way. We are working across the sector to help institutions navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by generative AI. In this session we’ll review the strengths and weakness of generative AI, the practices and approaches we see emerging, and take a look at how technologies and practices are developing as ever more generative AI applications are released. Slides are available at this link.

Michael Webb is the director of technology and analytics at Jisc – the UK digital, data and technology agency focused on tertiary education, research, and innovation. He is co-lead of Jisc’s national centre for AI in tertiary education, supporting the responsible and effective adoption of artificial intelligence across the tertiary education sector. As well as artificial intelligence, he has worked on projects around the internet of things, virtual reality, and learning analytics. Before joining Jisc, Michael worked in the higher education sector, leading IT and learning technology.

Shifting Sands: Teaching and Learning in the Age of Generative AI

Dr Foteini Spingou (Universities of York and Edinburgh)

As generative AI technologies continue to evolve rapidly, we find ourselves riding rolling waves of excitement and uncertainty. This paper provides practical advice and stimulates a discussion about the future of teaching and learning amidst explosive developments. It is divided into three parts. Initially, I explore strategies for coping with the relentless pace of technology-driven change. This encompasses an acknowledgement of practical and emotional obstacles while dealing with new technologies and offering practical solutions as we venture into the 2023/4 academic year. The second part focuses on the critical role of collaboration and evolving competencies for all higher education professionals. I argue that essential synergies between academic and professional services staff, nurtured by open communication and empathy, are fundamental in crafting an interdisciplinary, student-centred approach to teaching and learning, including learning and programme design. The final section probes into prospective futures of higher education characterised by learner-centric models, pedagogical decisions informed by data and the educator’s wisdom and intuition, and AI-assisted learning and teaching. By offering a compass to navigate the uncertainties of this rapidly changing terrain, this talk encourages proactive engagement from all stakeholders for collaboratively shaping the future of higher education in the era of generative AI. Slides are available at this link.


Foteini Spingou is an Education Adviser for the Faculty of Sciences at the University of York and an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. Foteini carries extensive research and teaching experience in medieval studies and digital humanities, coupled with rich expertise in advising on module and programme design and learning technology across faculties. Her scholarship focus lies on interactions between communities (of practice, inquiry, or learning) and technological advancements, including intriguing applications such as chatbots. Her work is not just theoretical but also deeply practical, keeping a finger on the pulse of digital trends as they evolve and transform the educational landscape and institutions.

Bias in Large Language Models

Sarah Wyer, Dept of Computer Science, Durham University

Generative AI has garnered a great deal of interest across multiple industries, particularly within Education. The gold rush to invest and build larger models at speed in the name of competitive advantage has led to impressive results from a technological point of view.  However, when we look at the output they can produce, we begin to see where ethical and legal oversight must catch up with these technological advancements. As with all Artificial Intelligence (AI), the data used to train Generative AI models and the choices taken by those developing the models directly impacts its output. 

The lack of diversity within tech is leading to poor data curation choices, causing under-representation of the most under-served communities. In this talk I discuss issues with current data curation, whose values are we embedding in these models, and the social harm related to downstream tasks which can amplify social inequality. I consider allocative harm in relation to opportunity loss/economic loss; quality of service harm such as alienation or increased labour; interpersonal harm such as loss of agency or social control; and societal harm for example, dis/misinformation.

Sarah Wyer is a Data Architect for FDM Group, a global leader in the recruit, train, deploy sector. She is passionate about diversity, widening participation and bridging the digital skills gap, she has also enjoyed teaching and technical training roles in the past. Sarah is a co-founder of the Bias in AI UK Network, a Global Ambassador for Women in Tech, and a contributor to Teens in AI.  Sarah is also a PhD student at Durham University and is interested in the societal impact of Artificial Intelligence on power, privilege, and oppression. Sarah is particularly interested in the mitigation of bias and discrimination in Large Scale Language Models from an intersectional perspective. 

To book for a free place at the online event and for details of the program please visit