The academic community arguably had a knee-jerk reaction to the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI): As soon as students started to use solutions like ChatGPT, many schools banned their use, such as New York City Public Schools.
On one hand, schools did have a justification. A minority of students were using AI tools to cheat, such as by submitting work created by ChatGPT as their own. While this is an edge case schools should always be worried about, focusing only on cheating loses sight of all the good that AI solutions can bring to academia.
One such example is AI-powered voice collaboration platforms like Vocol.ai. These solutions can help every stakeholder in academia, including not only students, but also educators and even administrators. Because schools may be adverse to such tools, it is important to more closely examine how they can help each stakeholder group.
Whether teaching an in-person or online class, teachers can use voice collaboration platforms to generate raw transcripts. But these solutions are not glorified transcription programs: Because they are powered by generative AI, they can also produce accurate and concise summaries of what was taught and discussed.
These summaries can help instructors with their own pedagogy. They can more easily save these materials, file them with related content, and use them as a springboard for additional development. For example, a teacher who delivers a lecture on Native American history can use the summary to produce supplemental content about particular tribes that naturally extends from the core material. This saves the teacher time and improves learning outcomes: Rather than struggle to recall the nuts-and-bolts of their lecture, they can devote themselves fully to curriculum development that makes a difference for their students.
The summaries can also help instructors deal with other stakeholders. Instructors can provide summaries to students as an additional resource to their own notes or in specific preparation of an upcoming exam. Instructors can also provide summaries to parents of younger students, such as those in high school or elementary school. Doing so can help parents understand their children’s progress, and where necessary, improve their ability to tutor and coach as part of any companion learning, which has been widely cited as a key factor in student success.
When it comes to the classroom, students always have a divided attention. They must first listen to what the teacher is saying and try to understand the concept. On top of this job, they must also take down relevant notes. Because these two tasks are often at odds with one another, both inevitably suffer. The student may have a poor grasp of the topic at hand, and their notes may be haphazard, especially if they have slow handwriting or typing speed or poor spelling.
Voice collaboration platforms can provide crucial support to these students. By alleviating them of the task of having to jot down notes, they can focus entirely on following the teacher’s lecture. Later on, they can refer to the AI-produced transcript or summary in the same way they would their own notes to review further.
Outside the classroom, these voice collaboration platforms can also assist students. With group projects, for example, some key items are often overlooked, as there is a lack of clarity on which student is responsible for them. With a voice collaboration platform, however, students can better handle project management, such as through the creation and assignment of action items. There may even be more specific use cases for groups, such as using a summary as the foundation of a group presentation.
Schools are composed of more than just students and teachers. There is a diversity of professionals responsible for the success of a school, including administrators like principals, academic but non-student-facing staff like researchers, and more general knowledge workers, such as marketing staff.
While these functions may be diverse, they do have one thing in common: They are focused largely on professional development, such as by attending conferences and workshops. Researchers might attend academic conferences in their particular field, while administrators will go to programs tailored to running educational institutions.
These professionals face the same challenge their students do in the classroom. It’s difficult to make the most out of these events when they are tasked with learning at the same time as note-taking. Professionals may have the additional burden of having to network and build relationships at these events, which further taxes their cognitive load.
Fortunately, voice collaboration platforms can help attendees take stock of who said what. They can use this information as a jumping off point for reaching out to the conference’s speakers or panelists (i.e. “I really enjoyed your talk. I agree with your point about X.") In addition to helping create connections, the staff can review the summary to catch what they may have missed during the excitement of the conference.
The entire academic community, including students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other knowledge workers can benefit from the use of voice collaboration platforms. To unlock this potential, they must first take a more proactive approach to artificial intelligence in general. Rather than ban AI tools for a few select edge cases, academia should embrace these technologies for the wider, more valuable applications they can aid in.
Schools that take this approach will eventually get even more creative in their use of AI, which will increase the benefits further. For example, some educators are already using voice collaboration platforms to enhance language learning, such as by translating audio for student reference or even playing snippets synchronously to help improve their pronunciation. These schools may seem highly experimental, but they will ultimately be the “voice of reason” in academe: When there's a better way to do something, it only makes sense to do so.
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