Sustaining Growth and Long-Term Integration in an AI Initiative


Josh Herron, PhD, Director of Professional Learning at OLC

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I recently returned from a trip and noticed some dying plants and patches of brown grass in my yard. After some investigation, I found that the irrigation system had been turned off. It’s been almost a decade since a professional assessed my lawn’s soil and started proper maintenance as I mentioned in the initial blog post about sampling the soil. However, if neglected—like turning off the watering system—a lawn can quickly revert to its previous undesired state. Similarly, any digital transformation initiative or change management requires ongoing effort to maintain the progress made in the initial stages.

Over the last two blog posts, we considered the importance of sampling the soil and knowing the lay of the land regarding AI in education and we’ve explored planting seeds by integrating AI skills and tools in our design and teaching.  Now, the focus shifts to nurturing those seeds and ensuring their long-term growth. This requires a commitment from both individual educators and the institutions they serve.

Building a Supportive Framework

While the initial stages help set up an AI initiative for sustainability, specific requirements are needed to maintain momentum and prevent regression. Creating a strong framework for sustainable growth includes:

  • Comprehensive Design: Draw inspiration from comprehensive models like the OLC Framework for AI Strategy, which guides institutions through a step-by-step process of AI integration, from planning to implementation to evaluation. This also involves considering both long-term and short-term impacts. Sometimes, elements of an ecosystem must be removed to allow new growth. Embrace a long-term mindset when encountering the disruption created by AI. Identify what might need to be removed for your institution to flourish in the age of AI.
  • Clear Communication and Guidance: Develop clear guidance around the use of AI. One counterintuitive way that guidance can support AI usage is a set of principles similar to the Russell Group of institutions’ list of AI principles, which affirms their commitment to teaching AI literacies, collaborating, sharing best practices, and changing teaching and learning practices to support ethical AI integration. Communicate the importance of academic integrity and life-long learning.
  • Equitable and Ethical Policies: Consider the equitable impact of policies and guidance, as research suggests underserved populations are most unfairly impacted by detection and punitive-focused policies. There are also data and privacy concerns with over-reliance on AI detection. Sustainable growth requires more than just detection as an AI strategy.

Fostering a Community of Practice

A thriving AI ecosystem is built on collaboration and shared learning. Engage with others at your institution and across your field to develop a community of practice around this area:

  • Share Success Stories: Share your experiences and consider ways to encourage other faculty and staff to share their successes (and failures) with AI integration. This could be done in a number of ways, but it’s important for folks to hear from one another in this journey.
  • Collaborative Projects: Seek out opportunities to work together to collaborate on AI-related projects. This can lead to innovative solutions and a deeper understanding of AI’s potential.

Leading the Way

As with any change initiative, institutional leaders play a crucial role in ensuring the success of AI integration. Here’s what they can do:

  • Strategic Planning: If you’re not already, engage in strategic planning to ensure that AI initiatives align with the institution’s overall mission and goals. AI should be on the strategic priorities list for the short-term and long-term.
  • Professional Development: Invest in ongoing professional development opportunities for faculty and staff to keep their AI skills sharp and up-to-date.
  • Resource and Support: Commit resources to determine the role of your institution. Offer support by listening and responding to ideas and concerns. Keep an open channel of communication.

OLC’s Center for Professional Learning offerings has a number of offerings designed to support leaders in these efforts. The Online Program Leadership credential includes a new offering on Leading in the Age of AI. The Teaching and Learning with AI credential is a series of workshops exploring the latest developments in education. Find upcoming workshops on our schedule.

By focusing on these three key areas – building a supportive framework, fostering a collaborative community, and providing strong leadership– institutions can ensure that AI integration is not just a passing trend, but a sustainable and transformative force in education.

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