Embracing GenAI means creative teaching and learning in Durham College classrooms

Category: Programs & Academics

Technology is changing how we live, work and learn at a more rapid pace than ever. Automation and the reinvention of work through emerging technologies such as AI, generative AI, machine learning and robotics will continue to shape many careers and shorten the shelf-life of some occupations.

Durham College was an early adopter of AI, quickly recognizing the importance of being on the leading edge of this field. And, as a result, generative AI (GenAI) is having an unmistakable impact on how students learn.

At the forefront of this technical innovation and educational evolution is DC’s Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) which directly addresses GenAI’s benefits and challenges in an academic setting. CTL is focused on supporting faculty to understand how to use GenAI to maximize the efficiencies and opportunities it offers in the classroom such as assistance in lesson planning and assignment design as well as consider academic integrity, data protection and privacy considerations.

Being able to effectively use GenAI tools is a skill that’s increasingly in-demand in today’s workplaces and DC is committed to ensuring students are ready to embrace changing technology as they launch their careers.

Amanda Maknyik is DC’s Dean, Teaching, Learning and Program Quality and the co-lead of the college’s Generative AI Taskforce which developed a guidebook on GenAI focused on teaching and learning. She recently spoke at a GenAI-focused event hosted in DC’s Global Classroom.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to experiment, grow and advance instructional practices and develop students’ capacity for using GenAI to strategically support the progression of their learning and new ways to express their understanding,” she said.

At the end of the day, GenAI will be a tool students use when they enter the workforce and using it effectively includes learning how to use GenAI tools which are expanding at a rapid rate, crafting prompts that generate useful results, and evaluating content created by GenAI tools. All of these skills help promote higher-order thinking, said Maknyik.

Over the next five years she sees GenAI as a teaching partner for faculty.

“It’ll be collaborative, where we’ve got our faculty who are the creative part of the equation and the GenAI shapes the output. It becomes the framework aspect of it, the more technical piece.”

Academic honesty remains one of the biggest concerns amongst educators, said Maknyik. The approach is now to support faculty in engaging in exciting new ways and developing assessments that are different from what would have been done in the past such as stepping away from essays, for example, and asking students to do something authentic, that they would be required to do in their professional careers.

The idea, explains Maknyik, is to get away from faculty trying to catch or punish students who would use GenAI to cheat and instead pivoting to interactive and engaging learning where the focus is on the process, not just the end product.

GenAI also creates new opportunities to embrace global education initiatives.

“We’ve got tools that will—in real time—translate languages. We can take the opportunity to put complex concepts into ChatGPT and have them translated into a language our students understand or have our students submit their work in their language that they’re most comfortable with, where faculty then use the GenAI to translate it to English.”

Maknyik described GenAI as both a technical and educational revolution and said educators must revisit how they teach. CTL’s resources include available tools for coding, video generation, research, grammar, editing and more.

“It’s challenging us to be creative in what it is that we’re doing in the classroom and that’s the most profound piece:  stepping outside of that box and being willing to take a risk,” she said. “We know that GenAI is going to become an integral player in the way we work so now educators are tasked with preparing our students to be work ready and future proof in a world that includes GenAI.”