Senate releases draft guidelines for generative AI

Presented at the May 15 Senate meeting, the Generative AI in Teaching and Learning Advisory Committee prepared a draft of guidelines for the use of generative AI to help professors and students navigate the evolving landscape of AI.

Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President of Teaching and Learning Dr. Christina Hendricks spoke to The Ubyssey about the implications of these guidelines and what she hopes it brings to the community.

“This is meant to be an evolving document,” said Hendricks. She said that despite consultation with Indigenous groups, copyright and security specialists and other Senate committees, they are continuing to keep the document open to feedback to allow new areas of concern to be addressed and reflected in the guidelines.

When drafting the document, Hendricks explained that the university purposefully tried to use an approach that involved incorporating as many voices as possible. Approximately 30 people served on the committee, with a mix of members from the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

Hendricks said UBC is trying their best to try and support the opportunities for teaching and learning while at the same time mitigating risks around privacy, security and ethical concerns.

The document is currently in its final stages of revision. Hendricks said the guidelines will be in effect by the upcoming Winter 2025 school year.

The future of AI in teaching and learning

Dr. Richard Spencer, representative from the Emeritus College, believes UBC is placing too much emphasis on the risks of generative AI and would like to see a proportional consideration of the potential benefits.

“UBC educators need to ask themselves, ‘How can information technology help learning?’ and not ‘What are the threats that that information technology poses to learning,” Spencer said. He believes there is far more to be gained by embracing generative AI than vice versa.

Before retiring in 2012, Spencer worked for the central IT department at UBC and served as the executive director for a brief period. During his time, he worked toward getting the university to incorporate information technology into student learning.

He sees generative AI technology as beneficial in enriching student learning in personalized areas where professors or lecturers may not have the time.

He acknowledged that the use of generative AI may come with issues of cheating and academic misconduct, but that he believes these are issues that have always existed in universities, regardless of the use of generative AI.

However, Spencer has observed that the quality of students entering UBC is extraordinarily high and he believes that the university should be more aware of the students’ appetite to acquire novel skills and create opportunities to enrich their learning.

“They're here to take advantage of the learning opportunities,” Spencer said. This is where he believes generative AI can play an important role in enhancing learning in the classroom and preparing students for future careers.

Applied Science Senator Drédyn Fontana echoed some of these sentiments and said UBC needs to adopt a “forward thinking” approach toward the changing nature of generative AI.

Fontana cited current literature noting the inadequacy of current AI detection software and the possibility of it never being able to catch up to the rapid progression of generative AI. In light of this, he believes the university should embrace a perspective that acknowledges the deficits of AI detection while leaving the possibilities of its use in classrooms open.

“We use the metaphor of the calculator,” said Fontana in explaining the incorporation of generative AI into the classroom. He explained that the invention of the calculator essentially made one skill of manual mathematical calculation less relevant and opened up the possibilities for academics to engage with mathematics at a higher level that was not previously possible.

“So my question is, when professors are indicating that students are losing the skills they've had previously because of gen AI, are those the skills like with the introduction of the calculator?”