Instead of Banning AI, ASU is Encouraging It With OpenAI Partnership

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Ban, penalize, discourage. 

That’s by and large been the policy toward AI technology implemented by many universities and schools since ChatGPT debuted and launched the era of generative AI. 

Arizona State University has taken a markedly different approach and is instead partnering with OpenAI to understand and study the best uses of this technology among faculty and students. 

“Through collaborations like this one with open AI, we can be hands-on and active collaborators, helping guide the future of these technologies,” says Kyle Bowen, deputy chief information officer at ASU Enterprise Technology. 

Billed as the first OpenAI partnership in higher ed, this collaboration gives the university access to ChatGPT Enterprise, the premium version of OpenAI’s technology. This provides many data privacy advantages, and work conducted by ASU faculty members will not be part of the training data used to improve AI technologies, Bowen says. ChatGPT Enterprise accounts also allow users to input more data, increasing the processing power of the technology. 

The institution is currently accepting proposals from faculty to implement innovative uses of ChatGPT Enterprise. The idea is to study these uses to provide research-backed best practice guidance for ASU staff and students. 

The university will focus on using AI in three distinct areas: 

  • Administrative Efficiency. ASU is interested in learning about how AI can streamline processes for administrators at the school as well as administrative tasks for educators. “It could help craft course content,” Bowen says. Since ChatGPT debuted, there has been talk about using it for everything from generating test questions to creating slide shows but much of this work has been conducted by individual teachers and professors. ASU will look into this in a more formal manner, Bowen says. 
  • Innovative Research. AI has become an important tool for academic researchers and ASU wants to better harness this. For instance, “What are the ways that it can help do analysis?” Bowen says. He adds that ASU has a range of scholars looking into these questions. 
  • Student Success. Finally, but probably most importantly, Bowen says ASU wants to examine how the technology can be used to support student learning and success. As with so much else around AI, there has been lots of talk of its potential in this regard but very little systematic study. 

Advice For Educators Considering Similar Partnerships 

An innovative AI study is already underway at ASU. One computer science professor is using AI to help make sense of vast amounts of environmental data gathered from satellites, while an English professor is conducting studies of whether AI helps students in introductory writing classes improve. 

To follow in ASU’s footsteps in partnering with AI, Bowen advises connecting with diverse university stakeholders. “I can’t stress enough the need to engage the broader community,” he says. 

Before embarking on this partnership, ASU put together a faculty committee with deep knowledge about technology. Student voice is also important in the process as is continuing education. In addition, ASU offers a whole slate of AI trainings, many online and asynchronous, for its educators to learn more about the technology. 

Many students and faculty are already interacting with and using AI, and Bowen says this partnership and other AI-focused initiatives will help guide AI policies and practices. The goal is to help steer the AI ship into the future and provide resources for those at ASU and well beyond.  

The school’s philosophy is, “Let’s be an active participant in finding that next generation of practices," Bowen says. 

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is a Tech & Learning contributor. A journalist, author and educator, his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.